President Joe Biden announced in January that the COVID-19 public health emergency will expire in May. The shift back to pre-pandemic times will mean Missouri will begin checking whether Medicaid participants are still eligible for their benefits.

Missouri has about 200,000 job openings. During an event with reporters Thursday, Gov. Mike Parson said he expects a shift in the number of job vacancies over the next six months.

“When that declaration comes off, we’ll be able to go back in there and say, ‘Okay, do you belong? Do you not belong?’ We’ll be able to do that. We feel like there will probably be about 200,000 people that will go back into the workforce once that’s done. I think that’s a little bit of a game changer for the jobs in the state of Missouri is why you see so many job openings across the state – nobody to fill them.”

Parson said when he first took over as governor in 2018, about 1.2 million Missourians had social services benefits. He said his administration verified the eligibility of Medicaid participants – dropping the number to about 900,000. After Medicaid expansion passed, he said about 1.1 to 1.2 million residents were on government healthcare benefits.

According to Parson, about 1.5 million Missourians are currently on Medicaid.

When the state finishes verifying eligibility, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to lose their government benefits.

“I will tell you, there will probably be 200,000 to 300,000 people go back into the workforce probably within the next six months,” he said.

Meanwhile, Parson said the lack of adequate daycare access is one of the biggest problems facing everyday Missourians. He touted his budget proposal for the next state budget year, which includes more than $800 million to help address Missouri’s childcare needs. The governor said that’s the largest investment in the state’s history to help improve childcare access.

“It is a challenge for young adults right now to be able to find adequate daycare in the state of Missouri. We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t find a way to help people go into work, to stay in the workforce if you’ve got the challenge of having to stay home with your kids. That’s just the reality of where we’re at today,” he said. “We made a large investment that we think that’s really going to pay off long term on us.”

More than $78 million would go to childcare providers and another $56 million would help to expand access to pre-K programs in public and charter schools for all low-income children.

Parson said he wants to partner with Missouri businesses to boost affordable access to quality daycare.

“We had about 50% of our state was in what we call desert areas, that didn’t have it (daycare) available,” said Parson. “That was during COVID, or right before COVID. And now there’s 30% less of that that’s in there right now, so we got to do a better job of building those daycare centers up across the state.”

The Missouri Legislature is working on the next state operating budget.

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