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St. Louis may give financial aid to residents facing state cutoff of pandemic jobless benefits

St. Louis may give financial aid to residents facing state cutoff of pandemic jobless benefits

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ST. LOUIS — The city may make one-time payments of $350 to $500 to an estimated 10,000 St. Louis residents facing reduced unemployment benefits due to Gov. Mike Parson’s recent decision to end federal pandemic jobless aid.

The $5 million expenditure is among recommendations submitted this week to Mayor Tishaura O. Jones by a city panel on how to use the initial $68 million in the city’s latest round of federal coronavirus money.

Parson last month added Missouri to a growing list of states ending the extra jobless aid, saying the continued assistance has given laid-off people an incentive to delay going back to work.

Restaurants, hotels and others in the service sector have complained that they haven’t been able to get enough workers in recent months.

Because of the governor’s action, the state will stop participating on June 12 in all federal pandemic unemployment programs.

That includes a $300-per-week boost to regular state unemployment benefits and an extra 13 weeks of checks beyond the usual 20 provided by the state.

Jones was among Democrats who complained about the Republican governor’s move. She contended that it would increase poverty by forcing people into jobs without a living wage or benefits.

The proposal for the one-time payments to ease the sting of the state move was made by a subcommittee of Jones’ stimulus advisory board.

The subcommittee was asked to come up with a plan to spend the $68 million Jones wants to earmark for direct relief. In all, the city is getting $517 million over two years.

The proposal will be the basis for a spending measure Jones plans to submit to the Board of Aldermen in the coming weeks.

Among other components is $17.9 million in housing assistance, including $12.4 million to help people affected by the pandemic make rent and utility payments and $1.5 million for mortgage payments.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer on Friday extended a ban on most evictions in the city to the end of this month.

More than $13 million would expand programs for homeless people, including $2 million to set up “intentional encampments” for those who won’t go to traditional shelters.

About $1 million would be allocated for so-called bridge housing in hotels and motels for people evicted from their homes or released from jail.

About $9.6 million would be channeled to health programs, including mobile vaccination clinics and the hiring of additional health workers.

That sum also includes an extra $2 million for violence prevention efforts such as the city’s Cure Violence initiative begun last year and about $2.25 million for behavioral health providers.

About $3 million would be allocated to expand summer and year-round job programs for youths and more than $400,000 to set up a “midnight basketball” league. About $2 million would be spent on aid to child care and early childhood education facilities.

The stimulus advisory board will take public comment on its plan at an online meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Go to the city website to sign up to comment.

Jones hires union official

Nick Desideri, who has been the Chicago-based spokesman for Service Employees International Union Local No. 1, is the newly hired communications director for the mayor’s office. The local represents workers in several Midwestern states.

Earlier, Jones had named Nancy Cross, a retired SEIU vice president, as city director of operations. The union was a supporter of Jones’ mayoral campaign.

This article was updated at 7 p.m.

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