A construction worker moves a scissor lift past newly constructed metal shelves that will hold bodies if needed in a overflow morgue, in Earth City, Missouri on Friday, April 17, 2020.
In early April, officials at the St. Louis County Department of Public Health made a grim realization: the region would need a temporary morgue for anticipated deaths from COVID-19.
They worked with St. Charles County to build an overflow facility they called the Dignified Transfer Center in Earth City in about 10 days. The project cost almost $1.67 million, with St. Louis County paying more than $1.13 million and St. Charles County paying about $531,000. But, like so many other aspects of the COVID-19 crisis, business opportunities resulting from these contracts were not awarded equitably.
A joint investigation between the St. Louis American and Type Investigations found that African-American contractors earned only a tiny fraction of the publicly-financed construction dollars available. Despite a county law requiring 24 percent of contract dollars go to minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs), less than $1,000 was awarded.