(The Center Square) – The city of St. Louis became Missouri’s first municipality to create a guaranteed basic income program when Mayor Tishaura Jones signed Board Bill 116 into law.
The bill gives authority to the city’s treasurer to negotiate and execute logistics contracts and permission to the comptroller for distributing $4 million in cash. Approximately 440 households meeting eligibility requirements will receive $500 per month for 18 months.
An additional $1 million will be used for benefits counselors and program administrators.
Parents or legal guardians of youth under 18 who are city residents and had a negative financial impact due to the pandemic are eligible for the funds. The dependents must be enrolled in the St. Louis Public Schools and household income can’t exceed 170% of the federal poverty level in order to be eligible.
The guaranteed basic income program was part of a $52.2 million appropriation from the city’s federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding of $498 million.
“St. Louis is back on the map, joining more than 20 cities across the country in piloting an innovative, forward-thinking guaranteed basic income program for city schoolchildren and their families,” Jones said in a statement. “From creating better opportunities for our youth to expanding access to healthcare, this bill is an investment directly in our communities still struggling to get back on their feet.”
In July 2021, Jones signed into law an appropriation of $135 million in ARPA funds, including $5 million in cash to city residents affected by the pandemic. It provided 9,300 qualifying city residents with $500 in direct cash assistance.
Applications were on a first-come, first-serve basis. The United Way processed applications and found approximately 25% were incomplete, resulting in delays, according to a report on the program by Missouri Jobs with Justice. When applicants couldn’t be reached, the city reopened the application process.
The Missouri Jobs with Justice report found 80% of those receiving cash assistance identified as Black and 71% as women. The report stated more than 33% of money was withdrawn through an ATM or transferred to another account. Groceries accounted for 15% of the money spent and utilities was 7%.
“If we’re serious about eliminating poverty in St. Louis, we have to stop using moral hazard as a roadblock,” Megan Green, Board of Aldermen president, said in a statement. “People experiencing poverty lack resources, not character. This bill is a step toward a universal program that would help all St. Louisans achieve a dignified, prosperous life.”
The bill also provides $13 million to four federally qualified health centers for expansion. Another $13 million was allocated to the Department of Human Services for housing stabilization.
The Department of Health’s newly created Bureau of Behavioral Health will receive $2 million for substance misuse and abuse. The Office of Violence Prevention will get $10 million for youth diversion, programming and jobs through the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment.