North St. Louis residents still awaiting $37 million in grant money as city moves closer to dispersing funds

More than one year after St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones signed off on a $37 million dollar grant program dedicated to North St. Louis.
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 8:04 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - More than one year after St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones signed off on a $37 million dollar grant program dedicated to North St. Louis, applications have yet to be approved.

In May of 2022, Jones signed Board Bill 82 into law. However, eligibility restraints based on geographical boundaries and the need for aldermanic approval for projects delayed the St. Louis Development Corporation’s ability to disperse grant funding.

As a result, several legislative fixes have been introduced as part of Board Bill 37, sponsored by Shameem Clark Hubbard.

The new legislation broadens the geographic areas from where applicants can be located, including areas on or to the north of Delmar. It also removes the requirement of an aldermanic letter of support in order for any grant to be issued. However, an alderperson can submit letters of support, opposition or neutrality for an applicant, which will be taken into consideration by SLDC.

“We want to remove as much political decision around it but increase the input from the neighborhood and residents,” said Neal Richardson, CEO of SLDC. “We believe aldermen have a clear understanding, a better understanding of what their community needs are but to have other voices at the table to see what gets approved should be the way it goes.”

The change also comes one year after three aldermen were indicted and subsequently convicted on charges related to bribery schemes.

Eligible applicants must show their small business or nonprofit must fill a gap needed in the professional or health services areas or enhance retail or cultural offerings in the neighborhood.

Richardson said SLDC has received around 100 applications online, but remains in a holding pattern until Board Bill 37 is passed by the Board of Aldermen. Until then, Richardson said, SLDC is unable to disperse the grant funding.

“We want to ensure we don’t ultimately have to call it back,” he said. “So we want to make sure SLDC, who is responsible for implementing and dispersing these funds, that we’re doing it by the letter of the law.”

The bill was discussed during Tuesday’s Housing and Urban Development and Zoning committee meeting and will likely come up for a vote within the next week. If it passes, it will then go to the full board for approval.

During the meeting, Ward 3 Aldermen Shane Cohn pressed Richardson, asking what his constituents in South St. Louis suffering from similar disinvestment will gain from funding dedicated to the city’s northside.

Richardson said SLDC has invested millions of dollars into economic development across the city, including handing out $5,000 small business grants to more than 900 businesses. Cohn argued for a more equitable way of dividing funding between residents in all parts of the city experiencing challenges and hardships.

Richardson said he hopes to begin awarding grant money to eligible recipients before the end of the year, more than two years after the original $37 million allocation was introduced.

The $37 million dollars is part of the $500 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act funding. According to the U.S. Treasury, all money must be allocated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.