COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri has less than two months to spend roughly $1 billion in federal coronavirus aid, the state budget director told lawmakers in a special session Monday.
Budget Director Dan Haug outlined the huge sum of unspent federal funding during the special legislative session called by Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, who asked lawmakers to give his administration the authority to spend another roughly $1.1 billion in federal aid.
Local governments also are sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars meant to help address the coronavirus pandemic. Missouri counties so far have spent only $128 million of the $520 million available to them, Haug said.
Some of local officials’ hesitation in spending the funding may stem from confusion over federal guidelines and concerns that a misstep will mean the federal government takes the money back, Haug said.
State health department Director Randall Williams has urged local governments to use the money for COVID-19 testing if they’re not sure how else to spend it.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said the city, which has been one of those hit hardest by the virus, was close to running out of money to keep day cares open and prevent homelessness. He was one of several lawmakers who raised concern about huge sums of federal coronavirus aid not being spent in Missouri, despite the need.
“I’m just getting really frustrated that it seems like we’re sitting on money for the purpose of making sure our day care providers are getting reimbursed at the rate they had before and that they’re not suffering horribly,” he said in Monday’s hearing.
Haug said Parson’s administration was considering putting unspent county money in the state’s unemployment insurance fund so it doesn’t revert back to the federal government at the end of the year.
“It’s our intent to spend every last penny of [federal] CARES [Act] money,” Haug said.
Missouri is among dozens of states seeing a big increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
State data showed Missouri’s positivity rate at 19.5% — nearly four times the benchmark suggested by the World Health Organization. Missouri has now reported 212,441 confirmed cases and 3,153 deaths since the start of the pandemic.