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Senate Appropriations questions DSS about Ferguson funding

State Senators are asking the Department of Social Services about the money it has allocated to the Ferguson Commission. Officials with DSS said they have committed to giving the Ferguson Commission around $500,000.

The Senate appropriations committee heard testimony Tuesday morning from DSS officials regarding the department’s upcoming budget. Senators took the opportunity to grill the DSS director about money the department is giving to the Ferguson Commission.

“There is a nexus missing to me over the legal purpose of some of these funds and the fact that there is no definition of what they’re doing with the money,” said Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Republican from Columbia.

Schaefer, chairman of the committee, said DSS isn’t the only state agency that is giving money to the Ferguson Commission. He said around $3.5 million has been committed to the Ferguson Commission so far.

“I don’t think any of us up here can think of an analogous situation where this much money had gone to something like this group with no plan,” said Schaefer.

Schaefer said it’s unclear how the commission will use the money. The DSS director said his department is giving the Ferguson Commission $500,000 out of its discretionary spending for the commission to use on community engagement.

“The funding that we’re using is called Community Services Block Grants. It is given to the states to deal with issues of poverty — everything from housing, underemployment, unemployment,” said Brian Kinkade, director of DSS.

Gov. Jay Nixon assembled the Ferguson Commission through an executive order back in November with the purpose of making recommendations on how to move forward after the Ferguson unrest. The commission is having its seventh meeting next month and has until mid-September to makes its policy recommendations.

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