St Louis County expects to receive $173.5 million from the federal government in the coming weeks to handle expenses related to the coronavirus. While the influx of cash will likely help the county, there are questions about how the money is being handled.
According to the Post-Dispatch, the “administration was moving quickly and unilaterally—without oversight or public notice—to spend upwards of $173.5 million that it expects the federal government to refund.” Further, the county executive is requesting the county council to grant him the ability to transfer funds without councilmembers’ approval.
For instance, the temporary morgue being built in Earth City in anticipation of more coronavirus deaths was constructed with the sole approval of the county executive. Alerting councilmembers and the public, as well as offering justification for its construction, are all standard procedures that were ignored.
It is understandable that in a crisis moves must be made quickly, but they can still be made publicly. As my colleague Patrick Ishmael said recently, if local governments want stimulus money they should be transparent about how that money will be spent.