JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri lawmakers authorized the state to spend approximately $6 billion if necessary to help fight the spread of COVID-19 and to help the state recover from the effects of the illness.
The biggest bulk of that spending authorization will be used to spend emergency federal dollars the state is expected to receive. The exact amount that will be available and what requirements might be attached are not yet known.
The approval of the legislation gives Governor Mike Parson’s administration the ability to spend money on items such as personal protective equipment for hospitals and first responders among many other COVID-19 related expenses.
One big chunk of federal dollars would also go to cities and counties hit hard by a steep drop in revenue due to many residents staying home. The State Emergency Management Agency would also receive a large amount along with public schools.
House members voted in the unorthodox manner of waiting in their offices until they were called to the chamber to vote. House Speaker Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield) called members to the chamber in groups of four. The House limited the number of individuals who could be on the floor at one time to 10. The limit complies with the state’s social distancing order.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D-Springfield) criticized Republicans before the vote was taken. She said they dismissed efforts by democrats in March to increase the spending authorization. Republican leaders have said those efforts would have lead to an unbalanced budget at the time and say the amount of federal dollars the state is expected to receive was not as clear last month
House Majority Leader Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold) accused Quade and Democrats of politicizing the COVID-19 crisis. He said republicans stated the COVID-19 situation required on ongoing assessment.
Governor Parson told lawmakers the supplemental budget needed to be approved by April 26. During Wednesday’s daily briefing, the governor said he will soon sign the spending authorization lawmakers approved.
It’s still not clear when lawmakers will be able to meed their constitutional duty of approving a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1. Some legislative leaders indicated on Wednesday they expect to be able to return to the Capitol before the scheduled end of the current legislative session, which is May 15.