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St. Louis leaders say top spending categories for $500 stimulus were food, utilities and gas

Walnut Park West resident Qristyl Frazier recalls that she "dropped to my knees and thanked God" when she got a cash card to pay bills and buy medical supplies.

ST. LOUIS — When people lined up for St. Louis' $500 cash assistance program this winter, Qristyl Frazier's name was on the list with thousands of other applicants though there was one person she was prioritizing above all others: her mom.

"Honestly, I dropped to my knees and I thanked God for it," Frazier says of the moment she learned she would be one of the more than 9,000 people to receive a portion of more than $4.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds.

A full-time caregiver for her mother after a massive stroke confined Rosetta Frazier to her bed last year, the younger Frazier says the money came right when she needed it most, using the $500 to pay for utilities, car insurance and supplies for her mom.

"You have to make it stretch. You have to make it last," she said. "The last thing I wanted to do was look at my mom and have to put her in a facility. I'm not gonna do that. I'm not gonna disappoint her."

A former competitor on the reality fashion program Project Runway, Frazier has put her design business on pause though she still has a sewing machine in her living room and yards of fabric in her home. She wore her own design -- a black & white printed dress she made the night prior -- to a press conference at City Hall Wednesday as St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones announced the results of the city's stimulus program.

Jones says preliminary data shows money went to the parts of the city with high levels of income inequality. 

"The outreach was targeted, intentional, and successful in communicating with families in need," she said.

Recipients lived in households with an average monthly income of about $1,100. Analyzing charges on the money cards, organizers say the top three purchase categories were food (grocery & dining), utilities and gasoline. (This data excludes ATM withdrawals and money transfers.)

Frazier says she's not surprised to hear that since she spent her own personal windfall on what matters most: her mom.

"People have families, and when things are really important to them, you do the right thing. You do what is important," she said.

Jones says the city will publish a final report on the cash stimulus program later this year. She says she is looking at ways to continue cash dispersals, acknowledging there are political challenges.

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