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Mayor Jones Designates $2.7M For Pop-Up Vaccine Clinics, Eviction Prevention

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File photo / Jason Rosenbaum
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St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, photographed on April 15, just before taking office.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones used executive action Thursday to earmark $1.2 million for vaccination efforts — with plans to acquire another mobile clinic and increase community vaccine outreach — after facing an impasse with the Board of Aldermen on her larger relief funding plan.

The mayor’s executive action also earmarked $1.5 million for services related to housing, emergency shelter, legal services, mediation and public benefits counseling. Both the federal eviction moratorium and a more expansive local one are set to expire Aug. 1.

Jones said the $2.7 million for the project comes from money previously allocated in the city’s budget. Using executive action allows her to transfer the funds to these priorities.

“I've been ringing the alarm since June about spending these federal funds that we received, and I have urged the Board of Aldermen to pass the $81 million in direct relief to get shots in arms, keep families in their homes and improve public safety,” she explained on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air. “But a month later, these much-needed funds have been tied up by the president of the Board of Aldermen. But while he's obstructing these funds, the people of our city can't wait.”

Just 41% of city residents are fully vaccinated, which lags behind St. Louis County (48%) and St. Charles County (47%).

Mayor Tishaura Jones On Her First 100 Days In Office
Listen to her conversation on St. Louis on the Air

Jones’s appearance on St. Louis on the Air came on her 100th day in office.

Jones was elected with bold plans to transform the city — and, in the three months since her inauguration, she has begun to implement her agenda. She has largely closed the city’s Medium Security Institution, better known as the Workhouse; renegotiated deals with developers; made major personnel changes and, this week, issued a mask mandate.

But crime remains a concern for many residents, and emergency dispatching continues to be a problem. Jones has also had to confront the reality of St. Louis’ weak-mayor form of governance, which includes her stalemate with Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed over spending plans for the first round of federal American Rescue Plan funding.

The $168 million plan approved by the Board of Aldermen includes $33 million earmarked for development in north St. Louis that Jones and her attorneys say is contrary to federal guidelines. Reed won’t budge, she said.

“We have reached out to him time and time again, and we've been met with nothing but rebuffs,” she said. “Even recently, he said he's not going to change one word. But if my attorney told me not to do something, I'm going to listen to my attorneys.”

What will it take to break the logjam? “We're going to continue to reach out to the president and hopefully he has a change of heart,” Jones said.

However, unlike South Louis County Executive Sam Page, who faced a hostile County Council after mandating masks inside all city businesses and public accommodations earlier this week, Jones said the Board of Aldermen has not offered resistance.

“I haven't heard much reaction,” she said. “We are hopeful that our aldermen are also listening to the advice of the St. Louis pandemic task force, which is, as everybody knows, a collection of federally qualified health center leaders as well as our medical professionals, who sounded the alarm just last week about returning to a mask mandate.”

Jones previously said she is considering a vaccine requirement for city workers. Asked about that Thursday, she stressed only the incentives the city is offering for workers who get vaccines.

“We are hopeful that will increase our vaccination rate,” she said, “and then we'll evaluate situations as they evolve.”

Jones said the first 100 days have been busy and acknowledged that some surprises greeted her at the 117-year-old City Hall. “I have learned a few things that would actually blow people's minds,” she said.

But, she said, she feels confident in her ability to tackle the city’s problems.

“They say that this is a weak-mayor system, but it's only as weak as the person that's in it,” she said.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Paola Rodriguez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske joined St. Louis Public Radio as host of St. Louis on the Air in July 2019. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

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