May 22, 2024

Frozen funds for some St. Louis County nonprofits amid council-executive clash

Elliott Davis and Joey Schneider

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Some members of the St. Louis County Council are in a battle with County Executive Sam Page and the head of local nonprofits, including one that helps women in domestic violence situations.

Organizations like Journey Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse (JADASA) got a letter on Sept. 20, 2023 telling them they were supposed to get $25,000 in federal ARPA funds from St. Louis County. But then in December, they got another letter telling them they were out of luck and the funds were being frozen.

Cynthia Bennett, the head of JADASA, says it’s hard to believe.

“It’s disappointing, very disappointing,” said Bennett. “I didn’t see it coming, but regardless of what happens, we still have to find creative ways to work with the woman to find resources to get them out of abusive situations.”

They’re not alone. About $1.1 million intended for five different organizations has been frozen. Groups like JADASA say losing that money is tough.

“It impacts us greatly because we still have to work with women if they need to get out of abusive situations,” said Bennett. “We have to come up with money to put them in hotels because we don’t have enough space for shelters with the other agencies. If we can’t get spaces for them, we have to fund the money to put them up in a hotel, which takes from our budget.”

The You Paid For It team reached out to Sam Pages Administration .

County Executive Sam Page sent out a letter, which reads, in part:

“The County Council recently approved a budget, which made numerous cuts to the County’s budget, totaling around $15 million, without any increase in revenues for the continued operation of essential County services.

As a result of these cuts, we are placing ARPA-funded projects with the exception of public safety on hold until we determine we have appropriate staff to administer these projects in compliance with Treasury Guidelines.””

One person not at all happy with the County Executive’s actions is the Chair of the County Council, Shalonda Webb.

”I think right now he’s standing on a hill, [insisting] that he will not release these funds because he’s displeased on the budget decision for 2024. And I think, to hold hostage these organizations and the good they can do in our community, is disingenuous. And it conflicts what he promised.”

“That is why we have trust issues in the county and what we’ve done time and time again with the representation that the county has done time and time again is bait and switch. ‘Do this, do this, do this, follow this carrot, follow this carrot,’ and then ‘Aww, the goal post moved. I’m sorry things have changed.”

County Executive Page further said in his statement that he will continue to review and look closely at the budget throughout the year, but he cannot launch new programs while less money is budgeted to run important operations in St. Louis County.

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