(The Center Square) – Approximately 440 parents will receive $500 per month for 18 months if St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones signs a bill creating guaranteed basic income, part of a $52 million federal pandemic funds allocation.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted 21-1, with one present and one abstention, on Tuesday to send Board Bill 116 to Jones. The guaranteed basic income plan will distribute $4 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to parents. Another $1 million will be used for benefits counselors and program administrators.

The bill allocates $15 million to the Community Development Administration and $14.8 million to the Department of Human Services. Seven other agencies will receive the balance of funds.

Bill sponsor Shameem Clark Hubbard was ready to defend the bill after several board members last week criticized the guaranteed basic income. She stated she was relieved few questioned the legislation.

Alderman Tom Oldenburg questioned the effectiveness of a similar program executed by the city last year and said the funds would be better used to help low-income and first-time home owners.

“If we really say we want to bridge the wealth divide that exists, and I think we can all agree that home ownership is probably the lead blocker in growing wealth, it is the most important asset for most people who become home buyers and the financial stability in growing wealth,” Oldenburg said. “I think $5 million could go a long way to solidifying homeownership, $25,000 could go to 200 households.”

Alderman Joe Vaccaro joined Oldenburg in questioning the effectiveness of last year’s plan to give $500 cash payments to 9,300 low-income residents.

“We’re going to vote for this because when you throw a whole bunch of stuff into one bill, you don’t want to vote against them,” Vaccaro said. “But I’m still trying to figure out where the last $500 went to. … We have 57,400 families in the City of St. Louis in poverty. How are you going to pick the 500?”

Hubbard said it’s unrealistic to provide assistance for all.

“There is no program on Earth that provides services for everybody,” Hubbard said. “That applies all the way down to the food lines when we have to cut it off. So that doesn’t mean you don’t do anything for anybody, or you don’t believe in doing anything for anybody.”

The program provides cash assistance for parents or legal guardians of youth under age 18 who were negatively impacted by the pandemic. Dependents must be enrolled in St. Louis Public Schools. Income cannot exceed 170% of the federal poverty level.

“We do not have a right to guarantee people cash money and think that’s all right,” Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, who cast the only vote against the bill, said last week during a legislative session. “That is wrong. There are all (kinds of) other ways to get help (for) people. … I’m not opposed to people who are poor getting things, but I am very opposed to the people who pay taxes and never get anything.”

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