Greetings Friends of the 144th!
I hope everyone is staying healthy and remembering to check in on elderly family and neighbors. This is a very trying time for everyone just remember to stay positive and follow all the safety precautions. Schools across the state are closed and parents need to remember this is for everyone’s safety. Please keep your children at home unless it is absolutely necessary to take them out in public. Children are not as susceptible as older adults, however they can be a major transmitter of the virus. We all need to do our part to make sure we can get this crisis under control.
Missouri House Approves Key Pieces of Legislation before Annual Break
House members returned to the State Capitol this week with the goal of approving the Fiscal Year 2021 state operating budget, but altered their plans as a result of the evolving COVID-19 health situation and the potential impact it will have on the state’s economy.
The week began with a marathon Sunday Budget Committee hearing where members of the committee worked until the early hours of Monday to craft a spending plan. The budget bills were set to come to the floor for approval on Wednesday and Thursday, but Tuesday afternoon the leadership of the House announced work on the budget would be postponed based on “information they currently have, as well as other factors that cannot be foreseen at this time.” House leadership said their primary goal is to “maintain an amendable budget” so they can “account for potential fluctuation in revenue and address any new needs facing Missouri.”
With work on the budget postponed, legislators turned their attention to a supplemental budget bill that will provide critical funding to help the state address the spread of the coronavirus. Legislators also approved an important piece of legislation that will generate close to $1 billion in revenues for the state budget.
With that work complete, House members will now spend time working in their districts during their annual break, which may be extended as lawmakers follow the CDC’s guidelines on large gatherings. House leadership will continue to evaluate the situation and will keep lawmakers informed on any decisions regarding when they will return to the Capitol to continue their legislative work. The goal is to have a budget to the Senate in a time frame that will allow for its passage before the constitutional deadline of May 8.
House Members Approve Supplemental Budget with Funding for Coronavirus Efforts (HB 2014)
The House has approved a supplemental budget bill that will provide the state with extra spending authority for the remainder of the current fiscal year. The legislation authorizes an additional $412.8 million in spending for items ranging from early childhood education to services for seniors to enhanced access to care for uninsured children.
“By passing this bill out today we are appropriating dollars that will keep state government functioning through the end of the fiscal year, which ends on June 30 of 2020,” said the House Budget Committee Chairman, who sponsors the bill.
The legislation also includes an increase of $33 million in federal funds to be appropriated for aid across the state to assist with the response to the coronavirus outbreak. The funds will be utilized according to two pieces of legislation at the federal level. The additional dollars will likely be used for testing equipment, personal protective equipment, as well as items like food assistance, emergency paid leave and emergency unemployment insurance.
The $33 million figure is based on a collaborative analysis of both the administration and the legislature regarding the amount of federal dollars the state is likely to receive in the weeks ahead. I think we are doing the best we can to prepare ourselves for what we think we will need combined with what we think we will get from the federal government.
The appropriation will supplement the more than $7 million in funds the governor has already activated with his state of emergency declaration. In total the state would have more than $40 million to utilize in its efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus through the end of the current fiscal (June 30) year.
In regard to the funding for coronavirus mitigation efforts, the House Budget Committee Chairman added, “I have faith in this body that we will come back and do our duty when we are called upon by the citizens of this state. We cannot solve a global pandemic in this room today. We cannot end the problem. We do not have all the solutions because we don’t know what we’re up against. We’ve heard from health care providers. We’ve heard from people all over the state. We don’t know what the scope of this is yet. But what I do know is that as we start to understand it more, if we are not doing enough today, we will be back in this room having this conversation again and we will do everything within our power to meet those needs.” The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Legislation to Continue Federal Reimbursement Allowance Taxes
Heading into the break, lawmakers approved an important piece of legislation that provides vital funding for the state’s Medicaid program. In total the bill will generate close to $1 billion in revenue for the state operating budget.
The bill will extend until 2021 the Ground Ambulance, Nursing Facility, Medicaid Managed Care Organization, Hospital, Pharmacy, and Intermediate Care Facility for the Intellectually Disabled Reimbursement Allowance taxes. These taxes are part of the Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA) program that was first enacted into law in 1992. Under the program, hospitals and other medical providers provide funds to the state. Missouri’s Medicaid program then uses these funds to draw down matching federal dollars, and providers are reimbursed through appropriations from the federal funds.
It is the single most impactful piece of legislation in regard to the budget that the legislature will work on this year. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
April 7 Municipal
until June 2
In accordance with the governor’s executive order declaring a state of emergency in response to COVID-19 and in response to a request from Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Gov. Mike Parson has signed an executive order that postpones all elections schedule for April 7 until June 2. The governor’s order allows the ballots already printed for the April 7 election to be used on the postponed date of June 2. Voters who have reached the age of 18 by April 7 will be allowed to cast a ballot.
Guidelines to Combat Spread of COVID-19
As the state of Missouri works to mitigate the spread and impact of the coronavirus, Gov. Mike Parson is encouraging Missourians to follow guidelines based on the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as federal guidance from the Trump Administration.
Missourians are encouraged to:
1. Listen to and follow the directions of your state and local authorities.
2. If you feel sick, stay home. Do not go to work. Contact your medical provider.
3. If your children are sick, keep them at home. Do not send them to school. Contact your medical provider. If school is canceled, keep your children isolated and out of the public.
4. If someone in your household has tested positive for COVID-19, keep the entire household at home. Do not go to work. Do not go to school. Contact your medical provider.
5. If you are an older person, stay home and away from other people.
6. If you are a person with a serious underlying health condition that can put you at increased risk (for example, a condition that impairs your lung or heart function or weakens your immune system), stay home and away from other people.
7. Even if you are young, or otherwise healthy, you are at risk and your activities can increase the risk for others. It is critical that you do your part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
8. Avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.
9. Avoid eating or drinking in bars, restaurants, and food courts – use drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options.
10. Avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits.
11. Do not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.
12. Practice good hygiene:
• Wash your hands, especially after touching any frequently used item or surface.
• Avoid touching your face.
• Sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the inside of your elbow.
• Disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.
13. Practice common sense and personal responsibility.
Gov. Parson also noted the state has taken several steps to encourage social distancing and limit the spread of COVID-19 in Missouri, including the restriction or suspension of visitors at Missouri’s veterans homes, correctional facilities, and mental health facilities. Public tours and events in the State Capitol have also been shut down.
In accordance with CDC recommendations, the governor has strongly urged the cancellation or suspension of public gatherings of 50 individuals or more. He also has asked that facilities attracting large concentrations of senior citizens strongly consider restrictions or closures, in consultation with health authorities, to protect those most vulnerable to the virus.
Parson also announced that Missouri casinos will be closed through March 30, 2020, in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
For more information, visit the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) website at www.health.mo.gov/coronavirus.
Those with questions regarding COVID-19 can also call the DHSS hotline at 877-435-8411.
Although our office is closed, we are continuing to work remotely, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative I am here to assist you however I can. I can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 573-751-2112.
Chris Dinkins is the area’s state representative for the 144th Legislative District. She can be reached by email – [email protected] or by telephone: 573-751-2112.