Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, left, signed legislation sponsored by Sen. Karla May that creates two new funds related to public safety (Photo courtesy of Missouri Governor's Office).

Under legislation approved by state lawmakers in May, nonprofits working to deter crime in seven Missouri communities can now apply for state funds — up to $500,000 — to support their work.

Applications are being accepted through Oct. 29.

A law signed by Gov. Mike Parson in June created the Economic Distress Zone Fund grant programThe state is looking to support organizations that can create new opportunities to address the root causes of crime, said the law’s legislative sponsor, Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis.

“Education and jobs – that’s the best way to reduce crime,” May said. 

But just as important as the services, the organizations must be able to get out into the neighborhoods and meet people where they are, she said.

“We need to be more intentional about touching people,” May said. “We need to just go knock on the doors. Target three blocks, lock down those three blocks, and provide them with the resources that you have in your not-for-profit. Go get them.”

Six of the seven communities outlined in the legislation are in the St. Louis region: Riverview, Pagedale, St. Louis city, Hillsdale, Vinita Park and Moline Acres. Also included is New Madrid in southeastern Missouri.

These cities have a homicide rate of at least seven times the national average based on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting System, a poverty rate that exceeds 20 percent and has a school district with at least 80 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. 

The Missouri Department of Public Safety is administering the grants. The organizations can apply for funding to pay for staff, travel, training or to buy equipment or supplies. 

The six-month grants are expected to begin Nov. 15, and May said she hopes the impact will be visible immediately. She is planning to establish an annual fundraiser to increase the fund. 

“I’m hoping,” she said, “that we can really impact the community in providing those services that connect people to resources.”

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