The St. Louis County Council on Tuesday approved spending $1.5 million to help the health and police departments combat the coronavirus.
The move came as St. Louis County Executive Sam Page warned that revenue will plummet because of the virus.
During the council’s first regular meeting held via videoconference, it approved sending $1 million to the health department and $500,000 to the police. According to a letter that Page sent to council members, the money for the health department is to pay for “staff, lab, clinical supplies, testing access for the uninsured and call center services.”
The police department funds are to provide protective equipment.
In the letter and in his remarks at the meeting, Page warned that there would be a big drop in county revenue due to the coronavirus’ effect on sales, property and gambling taxes.
“Earlier today, I shared with you some of my concerns about the impact we anticipate in the coming months,” Page said. “Because of the crisis, we expect a significant reduction in revenue and a significant increase in emergency expenditures. This crisis evolves quickly. And we will have to work together to address the financial challenges as they arise.”
Page wrote that the county has already incurred about $2 million in expenses related to the response to coronavirus. That included protective gear for first responders and law enforcement, as well as technology to ensure that county services are delivered to residents.
The letter also mentioned that he ordered county departments to stop spending unless the funds are related to fighting coronavirus or to “protect our community.”
“This means departments will not be filling vacant positions, will be deferring capital projects and purchases, and will be taking other appropriate steps to cut costs,” Page wrote.
The council held a virtual meeting amid restrictions on public gatherings. It featured a few technological hiccups. At several points in the meeting, council members could not hear staff members reading public comments that were submitted before the meeting. Some of the comments were read again at the end so both council members and people listening over the phone could hear them.
Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-south St. Louis County, noted that staffers worked “untold hours” to arrange the council meeting via videoconference.
Council Chairwoman Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood, added, “It has been a momentous feat.”
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