ST. LOUIS – Congress appropriated some $1.9 trillion in ARPA funding during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 to help the nation survive the crisis.

But there’s a catch: The money has to be obligated by the end of this year, and it has to be spent by the end of 2026.

Unused money must be returned to Washington.

The You Paid For It team contacted officials in some of the St. Louis area’s largest governments about their spending of ARPA funds and whether they’ll have to return any of the money.

St. Louis City got the most: $498 million. The spokesman for Mayor Tishaura Jones says 100 percent of the money is either spent or obligated.

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“We don’t have any danger of having to send money back,” said Connor Kerrigan, communications director for the mayor’s office. “We’re expecting everything to be programmed by the end of this year. The money has to be spent by the end of 2026. We are absolutely on pace to make that happen.”

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlman says his county is on track to spend all the money they got too.

The county received $78 million. Ehlman says all but $2 million is either spent or obligated.

“Whatever problems there were in getting it, I felt we would do a good job of spending it,” said Ehlman.

Probably the area with the most contentious handling of ARPA funding was the St. Louis County government and the fight between St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and the St. Louis County Council.

St. Louis County got $193 million. They’ve spent $137 million. So far, $53 million is still unappropriated.

Page in a battle with the council about his decision not to allocate the $12 million in ARPA funding to the not-for-profits that the council could approve ARPA funding for. Page said those were not normal organizations that the county funded, and a mistake could put the county at risk of having  to pay the money back.

Councilwoman Rita Days is not happy. She says, ”I think it’s been horrible they have all these consultants. They have all these people that they’ve hired, and it seems like that’s not enough; they need to hire more people.  I’m willing to give more money if I think you have spent what you have expeditiously. I don’t see that I do not see that in this administration.”

The spokesman for the Page Administration Doug Moore sent Elliott Davis this statement in part over the ARPA situation:

“We plan to have it all appropriated by the end of the year, with much of it going into the general fund to cover lost revenue, which is an allowable expense by the federal government. …

All spending of ARPA funds is approved by the council. If the councilwoman is unhappy with how the council decided to use the funds, I suggest she discuss those concerns with the other members.”