Missouri was warned as early as February that changes to the state’s anti-discrimination law could endanger hundreds of thousands in federal aid to the state, according to documents circulated by a Democratic leader Wednesday.
House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, a Kansas City Democrat, revealed that the state had received a letter from U.S. Housing and Urban Development officials in July that the state was no longer in compliance with the Fair Housing Assistance Program after Republican Gov. Eric Greitens signed SB 43.
McCann Beatty’s office revealed Wednesday that the Greitens’ administration was warned months earlier, in a Feb. 6 letter from HUD, that the bill would create “serious concerns” about the compatibility between state law and the federal fair housing law.
The bill makes it tougher to mount an anti-discrimination lawsuit in Missouri.
“Instead of fixing the problem when they had the chance, Governor Greitens and Republican legislative leaders chose to ignore it,” McCann Beatty said in a statement. “This is nothing short of legislative malpractice, and victims of illegal housing discrimination in Missouri will suffer as a result.”
Unless legislators pass a new law to get back in federal compliance, the state could miss out on $500,000 a year in federal aid for the program, which is meant to prevent housing discrimination.
The Missouri Department of Labor, the state agency which administers the program, did not comment directly on the revelation of the February letter. Instead, the agency sent a statement that was nearly identical to its comments from last week about the Greitens administration’s efforts to relieve HUD’s concerns about the law.
“The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has been working with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to clear up any apprehension they may have regarding changes to the Missouri Human Rights Act contained in Senate Bill 43. These conversations are ongoing. In the meantime, the Department continues to work with its federal partner to provide housing services to all Missourians,” the statement said.