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St. Louis considers 'guaranteed income' proposal to help struggling families

The proposal made it out of a city committee Thursday. It now goes to the Board of Aldermen for vetting.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis leaders are considering use of federal COVID-19 relief funds to provide monthly payments to people in need. 

Some 400 families could get a $500 check in the mail each month for up to 18 months.

Alderwoman Shameem Clark-Hubbard said she is excited her idea made it out of a city committee Thursday. 

"The need clearly is there, was always there, and was exacerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic,” she said.

There are now several steps ahead before the guaranteed income proposal is a done deal.

46-year-old Ra'Mone James said he is on a path to be his best. The St. Louis native is a father of five. His youngest children are 15 and 3 years old.

"To me, working is tremendously important. It's the most important thing outside of breathing right now,” James said.

But he is not working right now and his last job at a local auto plant was temporary.

"By me being a temp, I was the first to have to leave because I was a temp and the company was drying up its hours,” he also said.

James spends his time coming to the Fathers and Families Support Center, learning to be a better man. 

The class meets daily, connecting fathers with resources and a career advisor. Most of the people who participate do so on a volunteer basis.

"It’s helped me to be a better father, a better husband and it put me in the position to know the difference between a job and a career job,” James said.

These are the type of people St. Louis leaders are targeting for a plan to provide $500 monthly checks to. It would come from $5 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds.

James said he feels the need. 

"Childcare...extra money on the electric bill...the gas bill. It helps to stay in good standing with your landlord...we're having so many evictions," he said.

Alderwoman Shameem Clark Hubbard wants the money to go to some 400 working families, including those who have children in St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS).

"A parent who might not necessarily meet a threshold on paper but is choking at home every day,” she said referencing a group of struggling residents of the city.

She said she believes the plan could fulfill a huge need. 

"An impact on their budgetary needs, their basic sometimes critical needs in their household month to month...to now be able to depend on and budget in this extra money every month...as a parent myself...I know the difference it will make,” Clark Hubbard said.

“It helps people like myself, my family, and those that I know that are struggling at this time…to better themselves,” James also said.

Opponents of proposal pointed out the city already provided one-time $500 cash relief checks to people in need. They also said many who would qualify may already receive government assistance. 

Clark Hubbard said that does not take away the need.

The proposal now heads to the Board of Aldermen for two rounds of debate and vetting. 

Mayor Tishaura Jones said she is on board.

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