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St. Louis aldermen pass basic income program for city residents. Here’s how it will work

Alderwoman Shameem Clark Hubbard of the 26th Ward speaks on behalf of a board bill that would have St. Louis pilot a basic universal income program on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Alderwoman Shameem Clark Hubbard of the 26th Ward speaks Tuesday in support of a bill that would use $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to launch a basic universal income program. The board passed the bill during its meeting.

More than 400 families in St. Louis still dealing with the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic will get a little bit of help from the city.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Tuesday gave final approval to a $5 million universal basic income program by a 21-1 vote, with one member voting present and one abstaining. About 440 families will receive $500 a month for 18 months.

The program was part of a bill allocating another $52.2 million of the city’s remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds.

“When you look at the allocations, and the departments they’re going in, the work they’re already doing and the way this is going to build capacity, it’s hard to not get excited,” said 26th Ward Alderwoman Shameem Clark Hubbard, who was the bill’s sponsor.

The lone no vote, by Alderwoman Sharon Tyus of the 1st Ward, said she wanted to see a clear accounting of how the city had spent previous ARPA appropriations before she could support authorizing any more money.

In addition to the cash assistance, the measure also contains $13 million for federally qualified health centers, $6 million for court diversion programs and $4 million to the region’s job training agency to support youth employment year-round.

The treasurer’s office, which administered a smaller direct cash assistance program in 2021, will also handle the universal basic income program. Eligible residents must be the parent or legal guardian of a child in a city public school, “have had a negative financial impact due to the COVID-19 Pandemic” and make less than 170% of the federal poverty line, or about $47,000 for a family of four.

After giving the payments of $500 a month for 18 months, the remaining $1 million would be used to provide benefits counseling and help the treasurer’s office with administrative costs.

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Ward 17 Alderwoman Tina “Sweet T” Pihl, left, speaks to Ward 8 Alderwoman Annie Rice on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen in downtown St. Louis.

Richard von Glahn, the policy director of Missouri Jobs with Justice, said he was excited by the board’s actions.

“Too many workers are caught in places of economic peril, lacking the economic security necessary to invest in themselves in job training, furthering education, or perhaps striking out on their own as an entrepreneur,” he said. “A guaranteed basic income would relieve this anxiety and allow all workers the opportunity to think about the future and not just the day-to-day struggle.”

While Alderman Joe Vaccaro of the 23rd Ward ultimately voted for the measure, he was curious about how helpful the universal basic income would truly be.

“When you’ve got the last census showing we have 57,400 families in the city of St. Louis under poverty, how are you going to pick the 500?” he said.

The legislation did not spell out the process the treasurer’s office would use to select eligible families. The smaller one-time assistance program included an application process — a review found that 20% of those applications were incomplete, mostly because of difficulties finding needed paperwork.

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Former 22nd Ward Alderman Jeffrey Boyd walks alongside his wife, Patrice Johnson-Boyd, on Dec. 6 after being sentenced to three years in federal prison on bribery charges outside the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in downtown St. Louis.

Response to corruption scandal

Also Tuesday, aldermen sent Jones a bill reversing development incentives for a project in the 22nd Ward that was part of a corruption scandal.

The former alderman for that ward, Jeffrey Boyd, was sentenced last week to three years in federal prison for accepting cash, car repairs and other benefits in exchange for helping a developer purchase the building at 4201R Geraldine well below market value. He had also gotten aldermen to approve 10 years of tax abatement for the development.

Attorneys for Boyd said in court last week they expected the current owner, listed in city records as Mohammed Almuttan, to eventually deed the property back to the city.

See photos from today's' Board of Alderman meeting by Brian Munoz below:

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Alderwoman Norma Walker (Ward 22) listens in during amendment debate on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Alderwoman Sharon Tyus (Ward 1) speaks to Alderman Thomas Oldenburg (Ward 16) on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Alderman Brandon Bosley (Ward 3) addresses Alderwoman Anne Schweitzer (Ward 13) in response to an amendment to a board bill about the St. Louis Charter Commission on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Alderman James Page (Ward 5) listens into Alderwoman Cara Spencer (Ward 20) on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Alderwoman Norma Walker (Ward 22) records comments from Alderman Brandon Bosley (Ward 3) about diversity and equity on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Alderman Brandon Bosley (Ward 3) speaks about diversity and equity related to the makeup of the St. Louis Charter Commission on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Megan Green, Board of Aldermen President, calls for decorum on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Alderwoman Dwinderlin Evans (Ward 4), right, reacts while listening to Alderman Brandon Bosley (Ward 3) speak on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Alderman James Page (Ward 5) leans in to listen to Alderman Joe Vollmer (Ward 10) as Alderwoman Annie Rice (Ward 8) takes the microphone on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Alderwoman Annie Rice (Ward 8) addresses Alderman Brandon Bosley (Ward 3), not in frame, as Alderpeople (from left) Bret Narayan (Ward 24), Cara Spencer (Ward 20), and Sharon Tyus (Ward 1), deliberate an amendment on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Alderwoman Sharon Tyus (Ward 1) hugs Alderwoman Cara Spencer (Ward 20) after compromising on a resolution amendment on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
President Megan Green speaks to Board of Alderman legal counsel Louis Galli on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
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Brian Munoz/Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Alderwoman Shameem Clark Hubbard (Ward 26) speaks on behalf of a board bill that would have St. Louis pilot a basic universal income program on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Alderman Joe Vaccaro (Ward 23) waits in line to speak on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Alderwoman Cara Spencer (Ward 20) works on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Alderwoman Sharon Tyus (Ward 1) embraces Alderman Brandon Bosley (Ward 3) on Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 1520 Market Street in downtown St. Louis.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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