St. Louis Has Not Sent Out Pandemic Relief Payments Months After Aid Plan Was Signed

Nearly three months after signing a COVID relief payment plan, the city of St. Louis, Missouri, has still not sent out any checks to its most vulnerable residents.

The $5 million pandemic aid package was signed in July and was intended to provide $500 stimulus payments to 10,000 of the cities' most at-risk individuals.

However, a representative for St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones said that the details of the plan were still being finalized, and they do not know exactly when the payments will start.

"We do want to get it as soon as possible," said City Hall spokesperson Nick Dunne on Tuesday.

Mayor Jones spent a considerable portion of this past summer advocating for the passage of the bill, with critics arguing that unrelated initiatives were included, such as helping people pay rent.

Additionally, Dunne told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the city was combing through applications to make sure that the $5 million "appropriately targets families to have the greatest impact," he said. This includes people in low-income neighborhoods of St. Louis, who have statistically suffered more economic struggles during the pandemic.

The Dispatch noted that those who receive the payments must prove that they have undergone specific hardships related to the pandemic, including loss of employment or a COVID-related death in the family.

St. Louis, Missouri Skyline
Three months after having passed a $5 million COVID relief bill for vulnerable citizens, the city of St. Louis has still not sent out any of these relief checks, angering those who are waiting for their arrival. Here, the skyline of St. Louis can be seen. Michael B. Thomas/Getty

Beyond these parameters, qualifying residents must also earn below 80 percent of St. Louis' median income. Homeless citizens may also qualify provided a shelter sponsors them.

The payments are meant to be distributed to recipients via direct deposit for employed individuals, or otherwise via a single-use debit card.

While the city itself is in charge of the program, the United Way of Greater St. Louis, an independent charity organization, was contracted to administer the funds. That contract, however, was itself only approved in the middle of October.

A "competitive procedure" was needed in order to choose the contractor, which is part of the reason that the payments have been so backtracked, according to Dunne.

Despite COVID hitting poorer areas harder, the city of St. Louis has been on a positive trend as of late. KTVI St. Louis reported Tuesday that "nearly every measurable category [of COVID] is down. One key number hasn't been as low as it is now since early July."

However, with the winter months creeping closer, city health officials have warned that cases might start rising again as the holidays approach.

"I'm always cautiously optimistic in that there's two things that we have to keep an eye out for. Number one, major holidays we've got spikes in numbers of cases, hospitalizations, then eventually deaths right around major holidays," the director of the St. Louis City Health Department, Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, told KTVI.

"Secondly winter is coming and with it comes a plethora of respiratory illnesses," Davis continued.

Newsweek reached out to the St. Louis Mayor's office for comment.