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Krewson says state shortchanged St. Louis, most counties on federal coronavirus aid

Krewson says state shortchanged St. Louis, most counties on federal coronavirus aid

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Missouri Gov. Parson announces state help fighting violent crime

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson looks on as Missouri Gov. Mike Parson speaks during a news conference on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, where he announced plans to use the Missouri State Highway Patrol to fight violent crime in the St. Louis region. (David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com)

ST. LOUIS — Mayor Lyda Krewson complained Tuesday that Missouri officials are shortchanging the city and most counties across the state in the distribution of federal coronavirus aid.

The mayor has appealed to Gov. Mike Parson and state Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, who played a key role in the allocation, to increase St. Louis’ share to $53 million from the $35 million announced last week.

In addition, she said, the overall distribution by the state to Missouri’s counties and St. Louis city should be nearly $775 million, not the $521 million awarded by Fitzpatrick and a state working group he heads.

The state is taking that amount out of $2.08 billion in federal funds it received.

Krewson’s office interprets the federal coronavirus relief legislation as requiring that local governments get 45% of the total amount awarded in a state. Missouri falls short at about 34%.

The mayor said that is supposed to take into account both money going through the state to counties and funds sent directly from the federal government to jurisdictions with more than 500,000 residents.

In Missouri, only St. Louis County and Jackson County in metro Kansas City, which got $173.5 million and $122.7 million respectively, are in the latter category. With those amounts included, the statewide total is about $2.4 billion.

St. Louis, an independent city not in a county, was part of the state’s distribution, which began this week.

“We’re asking the state of Missouri to do what the CARES Act says,” Krewson said. That’s short for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

A spokeswoman for Fitzpatrick, Mary Compton, disputed Krewson’s interpretation of the federal law.

Compton said the law does say direct federal subsidies to large counties are calculated by multiplying a county’s percentage of the state population by 45% of the total state allocation. But Compton said the state has authority to decide how to divvy up the remainder.

Compton, however, didn’t rule out the possibility that the state could provide additional money “to address needs related to the virus in certain parts of the state.” She said the working group will be monitoring the situation.

Parson, at a coronavirus briefing in Jefferson City on Tuesday, said he had talked with Krewson and county officials about the way the state is distributing the federal money.

“I think there is probably a lot of attention paid to the formula that was used to get the money out the door,” Parson said. “The main thing we were doing is to get federal money to local governments as soon as we could.”

Parson added that “if there’s more money coming in” from Washington, “we’ll be able to use that.”

Krewson, in a letter to Parson on April 25, said St. Louis County and Jackson County had received about $174 per resident in direct federal coronavirus aid but that St. Louis is getting only about $116 per resident under the state formula. She said the state’s other counties presumably were getting a similar amount per resident.

“Surely it was not the intent of the CARES Act to provide a huge funding advantage” to counties serving more than 500,000 people, she said.

Krewson also noted that the city is getting $38,503 per positive COVID-19 case as of April 23, while the county has received $69,000 per positive case.

She said she realizes that the relative number of positive cases isn’t relevant to population requirements set out in the federal and state laws “but the information is provided to show the further disparity in funding.”

 

Kurt Erickson of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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