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Missouri moves on aid for renters

By Kurt Erickson St. Louis Post-Dispatch

JEFFERSON CITY – A plan to get $324 million in aid to Missourians is headed to Gov. Mike Parson's desk.

Following quick action in the House, the Missouri Senate voted unanimously Monday to send federal stimulus money to a program to help renters and landlords hit by the pandemic.

The program, managed by the Missouri Housing Development Commission, also will help with utility payments from people who have lost their jobs or been laid off due to the coronavirus.

"These dollars will not only help with rental assistance, but with utility assistance," said Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur.

"We are eager to get it out there. We would like to move it on an expedited basis," said Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, who sponsored the legislation.

Parson, a Republican, proposed the pandemic relief spending earlier this month, but House leaders were forced to suspend legislative action last week after multiple lawmakers contracted COVID-19, delaying even faster action on it.

In St. Louis and St. Louis County, landlords have filed for almost 5,000 evictions since mid-March, when local courts suspended them, according to data compiled by the Eviction Lab, a Princeton University research project that tracks filings across the country.

Budget documents show Missouri is allocated $410 million of $25 billion that Congress approved for emergency rental assistance via this year's Consolidated Appropriations Act.

Some of that money is going directly to cities such as St. Louis. Thursday's action in the House serves as a vehicle to get the money to other parts of the state.

The aid can provide up to 12 months of rent and utility assistance, ongoing rent and utilities for up to three months, and help cover missed rent or utilities since March 1.

The legislation is House Bill 16.