St. Louis County could send roughly $47 million of federal coronavirus relief money to municipalities to help pay for police and fire-related services.
St. Louis County received $173.5 million in federal funds from the CARES Act, which Congress passed earlier this year to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. And St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis appear to be in agreement that $47 million should be sent to municipalities to help with public safety costs.
Page said at a press conference last week that there are stringent regulations in place about how the federal money can be spent. And he added his administration is checking with federal officials to make sure such a transfer is allowed.
“We have to follow very strict guidelines set up by the Treasury Department," Page said. “And the initial guidelines were it could not be used for expenses that were previously budgeted in a local government budget — or were not related to costs related to COVID-19. And it could not be used to supplant something in the budget, and it could not be used to replace lost revenue.”
Page went on to say that “we’re trying to work within those guidelines to get guidance to see how we can help municipalities with their public safety costs.”
“And once we have that guidance, we’ll set up a process for municipalities to request reimbursement,” Page said. “And we’ll work with them.”
Pat Kelly, executive director of the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis, said President Donald Trump directed the secretary of the Treasury to loosen some of the restrictions of the funds when it came to public safety-related matters.
“So it's saying that the regular payroll expenses and public safety are dedicated to and can be reimbursed through the CARES Act funding,” Kelly said. “We estimated that three months' pay for the existing police departments and fire departments of St. Louis County was $47 million. The act actually covers those expenses from March 1 to Dec. 31. But obviously there's not enough funding that was allocated to St. Louis County in order to cover all of those expenses.”
Kelly said he’s hoping the money is divided by population, similar to how the county disperses proceeds from a public safety sales tax known as Proposition P.
“I mean, there's no doubt that the cities have these expenses. There's no doubt that this is not going to cover all of their expenses during this time period. And there's no reason to complicate the process,” Kelly said.
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