A bill that could have started funding additional testing in St. Louis County as soon as Wednesday failed to pass at Tuesday night’s county council meeting.
published in KMOV4
by Alexis Zotos
April 21, 2020
CLAYTON, Mo. (KMOV.com) – A bill that could have started funding additional testing in St. Louis County as soon as Wednesday failed to pass at Tuesday night’s county council meeting.
St. Louis County Council members met Tuesday night via online video chat for their weekly meeting. The two main bills focused on emergency funding for the county’s COVID-19 response.
Bill 103 would have allocated $7 million for additional testing and medical supplies. Health Department Director Spring Schmidt said the county needs to be testing 2,000 people a day to get a better idea of the impact of the virus in the community.
“They are still only testing high risk candidates, it’s not widely available, or at all, to the general public,” said Schmidt.
Councilman Tim Fitch added an amendment to Bill 103 for another $1.5 million for personal protective equipment for first responders.
Council Democrats voted against Fitch’s amendment, instead tacking a similar amendment onto Bill 104.
In a 4-3 vote, with Democrats Lisa Clancy, Kelli Dunaway, Rita Days and Rochelle Walton Gray voted for Bill 103, Republicans Tim Fitch, Ernie Trakas and Mark Harder voted against. A unanimous vote could have fast tracked the bill, making funding available as soon as Wednesday.
The bigger issue was with bill 104, which creates a special revenue fund for the CARES Act money coming from the federal government. St. Louis County expects to receive $175 million as soon as Friday to help fund the COVID-19 response as well as the economic recovery.
Republican members of the County Council are concerned there is a lack of oversight with the funds.
“I’m not making light of the emergency, but we have responsibilities as elected representatives to do our due diligence with respect to oversight when it comes to that kind of money,” said Ernie Trakas.
Trakas introduced a sub bill to 104 that would give County Executive Sam Page $43 million, roughly 25 percent of the funds, immediately, but then would require him to come back to the County Council for approval.
That sub bill was voted down by council Democrats.
The vote for bill 104 was also 4-3, and without a unanimous vote, could not pass Tuesday night.
“The longer it takes to pass this, the more days and weeks we add to the process. That’s fine for most bills but it is unconscionable during a pandemic,” said Clancy.
The council will take up both bills again next Tuesday where they are expected to pass with a simple majority vote.