New Report Shows that Majority of St. Louis Direct Cash Assistance Recipients Used Funds for Essentials Including Groceries and Utilities


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ST. LOUIS, MO — A new report from Missouri Jobs with Justice and Hester St. highlights how stakeholders and the city of St. Louis applied American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to pilot a Direct Cash Assistance program for 9,300 St. Louis residents most negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

“Direct cash assistance provided necessary immediate relief to families whose economic stability was threatened due to the COVID pandemic,” said Richard von Glahn, Policy Director with Missouri Jobs with Justice. “ARPA funds were designed to deliver direct relief to Americans, and that’s exactly what our city was able to do with this program.”

The biggest takeaways from the report include

  • Direct cash assistance was predominantly used toward essential needs, including utilities and groceries.
  •  99.3% of survey respondents want the city to recommit to further investments and pursue a program like this again.
  • A majority of the recipients cited job loss, unpaid time off due to COVID-19 or quarantine, and inability to work due to lack of childcare.
  • Direct cash assistance recipients largely resided in Black and brown neighborhoods in the eastern and northern parts of St. Louis.
  • 80% of direct cash assistance residents identified as Black, 71% identified as women. 

Over and over again, recipients reiterated how critical the cash assistance was in addressing urgent needs. On average, recipients rated their need for the assistance as 9.7 out of 10.

“I was totally amazed and thankful for this payment,” said Helen Smith, a senior citizen in Ward 1’s Kingsway West neighborhood. “So many of us are struggling and one accident or misfortune away from being completely drained. For me, this payment came just in time to catch up on gas and electric bills.”

The impact of the direct cash assistance extended well beyond the $500 one-time payment. Recipients reported that this support prevented worse health outcomes and worse financial situations, reduced stress and anxiety, and made recipients feel supported by their city.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, I saw my hours cut at the fast food restaurant I worked at,” said Walnut Park West resident Kimmy Moore. “This payment helped me and thousands of other St. Louisans pay the bills and get back on my feet.” 

Recipients across the city agreed that this assistance came right on time. Furthermore, 99.3% of survey respondents want the city to recommit to further investments and pursue a program like this again.