Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the St. Louis American.
In early April, officials at the St. Louis County Department of Public Health made a grim realization: The region would need a temporary morgue for anticipated deaths from COVID-19.
They worked with St. Charles County to build an overflow facility they called the Dignified Transfer Center in Earth City in about 10 days. The project cost almost $1.67 million, with St. Louis County paying more than $1.13 million and St. Charles County paying about $531,000. But, as with so many other aspects of the COVID-19 crisis, business opportunities resulting from these contracts were not awarded equitably.
A joint investigation by the St. Louis American and Type Investigations found that African American contractors earned only a tiny fraction of the publicly financed construction dollars available. Despite a county law requiring 24% of contract dollars go to minority-owned business enterprises, less than $1,000 was awarded.