Treasurer Tishaura Jones releases ‘Report to the Community’
In St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura O. Jones’ 2020 “Report to the Community,” she noted that the Office of the Treasurer had implemented four of the calls to action from the Ferguson Commission’s 2016 report and is working on two more.
“The Ferguson Commission report was not meant to sit on a shelf,” Jones said. “My office has been implementing their calls-to-action because we all benefit from an equitable region which expands opportunity for all.”
One of those calls for action was a livable wage for all. In pursuit of that goal, Jones raised the minimum wage for those working in her office to $15/hour in May 2019.
“All work deserves dignity, and all work matters,” Jones said. “We are really serious about making sure that people stop making poverty wages, and it’s made a hell of a difference in our employees being able to make a livable wage and take care of themselves and their families.”
On January 17, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson followed suit, ordering the minimum wage for all city workers raised to $15 an hour. Then on January 30, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page followed suit, announcing a plan to raise the wage of all county workers to $15 by 2022.
Another call to action in the Ferguson Report that Jones has answered is the call to “create universal child development accounts,” where the Treasurer’s Office was named by the Ferguson Commission as one of the directly accountable bodies. Jones is answering that call through her ongoing College Kids Savings program, which provides every student enrolled in St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) and charter schools with the opportunity to save for college.
“This school year, the College Kids program reached 16,000 children’s savings accounts with over $1.1 million in assets to help students in SLPS and charter schools attain their dreams of college or vocational training,” Jones said in a statement.
Though this is not exactly what the report called for – which was an expansion of the current grant-matching Most 529 program into an automatic full-coverage, opt-out system – it makes progress towards a similar goal.
The other two fiscal Ferguson Commission recommendations that Jones’ office has announced success in both involve financial empowerment and education. One is to raise awareness of development accounts like those utilized in the College Kids program. In pursuit of this goal of awareness and education, the Treasurer’s Office has used radio PSAs, along with more direct methods in the schools, like sending materials home in student backpacks.
In a similar call, the Ferguson Commission called on the St. Louis region to concentrate financial services through empowerment sites, which are places that merge traditional banking sites with financial education sites. Through the Treasurer’s Office of Financial Empowerment, she has been working towards that goal of creating permanent empowerment sites by holding financial literacy workshops.
This past fiscal year, the office held 85 workshops with over 1,200 participants to enhance credit, money management, lending, and more, Jones said. The Office of Financial Empowerment also has a permanent office in City Hall, which offers walk-in free financial counseling. At a recent public event in Florissant announcing the United Church of Christ’s retirement of $12.9 million in medical debt, Jones opened the office’s doors to anyone in the region.