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Sunday, Nov 23, 2014
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Missouri unveils effort to aid Ferguson businesses


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ST. LOUIS – Missouri and St. Louis-area economic development groups and lenders are committing $1 million in support to businesses affected by the unrest in Ferguson that followed the shooting death of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white police officer, Gov. Jay Nixon said Thursday.

The public-private push to aid businesses in the St. Louis suburb comes as law enforcement agencies tally the costs of policing the community, where Michael Brown’s Aug. 9 death sparked more than a week of protests that sometimes became violent. Though it may be weeks – perhaps months – before the final tab is known, St. Louis County Chief Operating Officer Garry Earls said Thursday he estimates the county spent $1.5 million in overtime for its officers to help keep the peace in Ferguson. Add in the cost of items such as food, fuel, bottled water and tear gas, and the tab will continue to grow, he said.

Earls said the total cost for the dozens of regional police agencies who helped with securing Ferguson, including the Missouri State Highway Patrol, could swell to $3 million to $6 million. He estimates that Ferguson alone may be responsible for a $500,000 policing tab, though the mayor of the suburb did not immediately return phone messages for comment Thursday.

The county’s roughly $6 million emergency fund is now covering its Ferguson-related police expenses as well as an aid package that’s going to the suburb, he said.

“The bottom line is that we’re really now just putting together an accounting of all this,” Earls said.

Nixon said he’s designated State Treasurer Clint Zweifel to oversee the distribution of no-interest loans to Ferguson businesses harmed by looting and rioting since Brown’s death. The state’s share of the support is $250,000.

The city of St. Louis’ police department spent roughly $740,000 on wages and overtime to supply additional police manpower in Ferguson, said Maggie Crane, a spokeswoman for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson told the St. Louis Post Dispatch on Wednesday that his department also spent some $162,000 on gas masks, shields and other equipment for officers.

“Because the governor did declare a state of emergency, we will be asking the state for reimbursement for expenses,” Crane said.

It’s still unclear how much taxpayers will end up paying for the Missouri National Guard’s governor-ordered presence for more than a week in Ferguson.

In a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Eric Holder, Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri pressed the Justice Department to identify available programs and resources that would assist Missouri police agencies that “relied on their own budgets” in responding to Ferguson.

“Many of these state and local law enforcement agencies struggle to meet their immediate needs and do not have the resources to respond to the levels of civil unrest that has taken place in Ferguson in recent weeks,” Blunt wrote.

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