A Missouri Senate committee with a say in the state’s piggy bank has sifted through Gov. Mike Parson’s request for $5.8 billion in extra cash during the current state budget year. Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee did the work while some of them donned protective masks and kept their social distance from one another. The committee hearing was live streamed so the surroundings were absent of some staffers, lobbyists, media and members of the public.
The funding plan, which would be used in the state’s response to the coronavirus, includes $5.1 billion in federal funds, $247.5 million in state dollars and $379 million in other funding. When the federal money would come in, exactly how much Missouri would get and if it will be a lump sum or a round of payments is unknown.
Some of the highlights of the request include about $1 billion in federal funds to Missouri communities and $900 million to the Missouri Department of Public Safety to help the state and local governments pay for protective equipment.
During the committee hearing, State Budget Director Dan Haug says the market on personal protective equipment to fight the coronavirus is ridiculous.
“We think a 90-day supply, which would take us through the end of the fiscal year of PPE – the personal protective equipment, is about $150 million,” he says. “That’s very fluid. I will tell you we had an order for PPE for 30 days. It cost us 18 million dollars. A week later, it cost us $40 million.”
Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, says she represents counties with zero personal protective equipment.
“Not for firefighters, not for law enforcement, not for their health care providers – nothing. So, I hope that we have the access to be able to distribute that money around the state and not just two communities only,” says Riddle.
An estimated $600 million would be reserved for temporary hospital sites – roughly $100 million each for three months. Whether or not the state actually needs these places as hospital overflow locations will depend on the severity of the respiratory virus throughout the state. Under the plan, the state would hire 199 full-time equivalent temporary employees to help at these sites.
Another big chunk of cash – $1.5 billion in federal funds – would be for K-12 public schools and $304 million in federal dollars would aid Missouri’s colleges and universities.
The Missouri Department of Mental Health could get $22 million in federal money to help with crisis counseling, suicide prevention programs and individuals with developmental disabilities.
For the Missouri Department of Social Services, the state would provide nearly $334,000 to help with additional nursing care, $528,000 in federal money to help victims of domestic violence and $40 million in federal funding for nursing homes.
Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, spoke about the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on Missouri nursing homes, specifically about personal protective gear. Eigel, a member of the Senate Conservative Caucus, said they need additional funding and offered an amendment to prioritize $125 million for the care centers. Haug said the amendment would result in cuts to other places in the budget.
Several members voiced support for Eigel’s proposal, including Sen. Mike Cunningham, R-Rogersville. He cites a nursing home in his district on the brink of closure.
“Possibly within three to four weeks, there’s going to be 100 and some people who will have to relocate. There’s no place for them to go in the area and I just think it’s the wrong thing to do,” says Cunningham. “My concern is where else can we go to get money if we can’t do this. This is a population that definitely needs it.”
Committee Chairman Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, left the line open for later discussion.
Hegeman has requested a monthly tracking for lawmakers to know where the money is coming from and how it is being spent. Haug says the state is working on getting this system in place.
The Senate committee has taken the governor’s position in some cases. In other cases, it’s taken the House Budget Committee’s or has come up with its own changes.
The full Senate plans to take up the package on Wednesday. The plan would then move on to the Missouri House of Representatives.
To see the governor’s full list of recommendations, click here.
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