ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — An emergency ordinance passed by the St. Louis County Council Tuesday means County Executive Sam Page will not need approval from the council to spend money given to the county as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
The ordinance says all money given to the county as part of the CARES Act will be put into a special revenue fund. Page would then be able to administer the funds without seeking further approval from the council.
The ordinance will also create a compliance program to ensure the funds are being used appropriately, and an online portal with reports of all expenditures from the CARES Act.
The ordinance was approved by a 4-3 vote, with the four Democratic councilwoman voting in favor and the three Republican councilmen voting against it.
St. Louis County received $173.4 million to help with pandemic-related costs.
“Now we can invest the federal funds in the tests, PPE, and contact tracing that our residents need," Page said in a press release Tuesday evening. "Today, the Council had a vigorous debate about whether to move forward fighting COVID-19. I remain committed to collaborating with each Council member as we provide our community the necessary supports and get our economy back on its feet.”
In a letter submitted for the public comment portion of Tuesday's meeting, Councilman Tim Fitch called the move "COVID-19 politics at play."
"Sam, only you, your council friends and your political advisors believe it's a good idea to have no meaningful Council oversight," Fitch said in the letter.
The ordinance said delays in receiving and distributing the funding would pose serious threats to the public health of the community.
According to the St. Louis Business Journal, Democrat Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway said Republicans were hypocritical in their criticisms because the council regularly appropriates multimillion-dollar grants that carry rules, as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act does.
She also said there would be "unprecedented" transparency in how the funds are spent, as there's already an online portal detailing costs. Dunaway is chairing a committee overseeing spending, though Republicans have criticized it as meaningless.