Today, Mayor Tishaura O. Jones and Treasurer Adam Layne, joined by Ald. Annie Rice (8) and Ald. Megan Green (15) and Direct Cash Assistance (DCA) participants, presented an initial summary of the DCA program. Funded through the American Rescue Plan, the program has provided $500 one-time payments to more than 9,000 eligible St. Louis households, helping thousands of families put food on the table, pay the bills, and gain the stability they needed to reenter the workforce.
“From students preparing to go to college to working parents trying to make ends meet, our innovative Direct Cash Assistance programs helped thousands of residents build a better future for themselves and their families,” said Mayor Tishaura O. Jones. “By using the American Rescue Plan to invest directly in families and communities, St. Louis is creating change residents can feel. A review of our data shows St. Louisans are putting these funds towards the essentials – food, utilities, gas – helping them afford the basics they need.”
Initial analysis by the Treasurer’s Office and MoCaFi found that the top three spend categories as of August 2022 were food (groceries and dining), utilities, and gasoline, excluding ATM withdrawals and money transfers. The average household size was two people, and the median monthly income of applicants was $1,112/month. The cost per card was $3, and the average processing time assuming a completed application was 14 days. A map of card distribution by zip code can be found in the attached program summary.
“A lot of effort went into ensuring there were thoughtful outreach strategies to include underrepresented communities, including seniors and housing unstable families,” said said Treasurer Adam L. Layne “To date there have been over 18 different in-person application events to increase the outreach to senior homes, schools and those who needed additional support with submitting a digital application.”
The program’s online application portal opened in December 2021, and the United Way of Greater St. Louis and partners stood up in-person application events to assist those without internet access. Unhoused providers and undocumented community organizations were also brought in to reach populations with unique needs. Following the portal’s closure, the more than 20 percent incomplete or disqualified applications left more than 1,500 cards for distribution. To bridge the digital divide and in line with feedback from the community, partners targeted senior homes, housing unstable families in our schools, and early childcare providers for further outreach to distribute remaining funds.
“The Students in Transition team was pleased to help coordinate this distribution of DCA funds with our partners at the City and the United Way,” said Dr. Deidra Thomas-Murray, Students in Transition Coordinator. “From our standpoint, the in-person process was seamless, and we were able to walk people through the process in a very personal way. All-in-all, it was a great opportunity to put much needed funds in the hands of more than 400 predominantly unhoused young people and families of Saint Louis Public Schools.”
The United Way of Greater St. Louis administered the program and diligently reached out to those whose submitted applications were not correct or complete. Through multiple followups to procure the additional documentation necessary to move forward, the United Way was able to help more than 500 St. Louis households complete their applications.
“There are many families facing tough decisions every day, like whether to pay the rent or afford lifesaving medication, and partnering with the City of St. Louis and the Treasurer’s office through the Direct Cash Assistance program was an opportunity to get more resources to struggling families and more investment into our region,” said Michelle Tucker, president and CEO of United Way of Greater St. Louis. “United Way has been serving the St. Louis region for 100 years. Because of this, we have longstanding relationships with local businesses, providers and government agencies and extensive knowledge of community needs, so we are uniquely positioned to partner in new and innovative ways like this program so we can get more support to individuals and families in our communities.”
The City of St. Louis will partner with the Missouri Budget Project, Missouri Jobs with Justice, and the Ford Foundation on a comprehensive study of the program’s impact.