Governor cuts $209M from budget because of virus

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri’s governor has cut another $209 million from this year’s budget, including deep cuts in education, following a steep drop in revenue because of the coronavirus.

The cuts Monday by Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, included $123 million in core funding from public K-12 schools, $34 million from four-year public colleges and $6.8 million from community colleges.

In effect, that means most K-12 schools will get roughly 40 percent less money from the state this month. Four-year colleges won’t get any of their monthly state funding this month.

In total, Parson so far has cut close to $428 million in state funding because of the pandemic.

State revenue collections are down about 6 percent compared with last year, and lawmakers had planned on revenue gains when they were making this year’s budget.

“This is truly unlike anything we have ever experienced,” Parson said.

The coronavirus’ slam on the state economy is clear. In April alone, revenue dropped 54 percent compared with April 2019. Unemployment in the state reached 9.7 percent in April.

Missouri Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven said Monday that reductions to K-12 school funding could mean cuts to food delivery for students in need; staff salaries; or technology and wi-fi hotspots used to help students learn from home during the pandemic,.

There is some hope for schools, Vandeven said. The state is getting $187 million in federal funding for K-12 schools that could offset much of the state funding cuts, and local education leaders will have wide flexibility in how they spend that.

Other cuts include $6 million from home- and community-based services, which provide services such as in-home care for people with disabilities and outpatient mental health care.

For some infected people, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the coronavirus can cause severe illness and death. For most people, it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks.

Missouri reported 64 deaths in a two-day period Friday and Saturday, but just one on Sunday. The number of confirmed cases on Sunday rose by 185 to 13,147.

The new cases include 70 soldiers and trainees at Fort Leonard Wood, fort officials said Sunday. The affected individuals were all assigned to the 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, and have been quarantined. Buildings and facilities within the unit have been sanitized.

Most of those who tested positive do not have coronavirus symptoms, and none has been hospitalized.

About 500 soldiers or trainees were tested when they arrived at the base, and all tests originally came back negative. Four days later, a trainee reported having symptoms, and all 500 were re-tested on Saturday and Sunday, resulting in the 70 positive results.

Casinos are beginning to reopen in Missouri after a more than two-month shutdown caused by the coronavirus, and it was clear Monday that many people were eager to gamble.

Nearly 100 people lined up awaiting the 9 a.m. reopening of the Lumiere Place casino in downtown St. Louis; many were older adults, most wearing masks, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. According to state health department data, 579 of the 772 people in Missouri who have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, were age 70 or older.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Monday that bars could open June 8. Other businesses that have been closed, including casinos, fitness centers, movie theaters, bowling alleys and others, can reopen June 15 with restrictions.

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