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story.lead_photo.caption Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Friday, April 10, 2020, signed a supplemental budget to get the state through the end of June. Photo by Courtesy of Missouri Governor's Office

This story was updated at 7 p.m. April 10, 2020, with further details.

For more news about the COVID-19 coronavirus, access the News Tribune Health section.

Gov. Mike Parson has signed a supplemental budget the General Assembly passed this week, and he's called on the state treasurer to lead a group to advise on how to spend federal funding coming to Missouri.

The Legislature overwhelmingly passed a supplemental budget Wednesday to get the state through the end of June. It includes billions of dollars of expected pandemic relief made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that President Donald Trump signed into law last month, as well as billions more federal relief that may come in future legislation from Congress.

"COVID-19 has had an overwhelming impact on our economy, and many local governments, health care providers, education institutions, businesses and other groups will rely on this funding," Parson said Friday.

While full details of the supplemental budget Parson signed into law were not yet available Friday, the bill as it passed included $1.071 billion in federal funds from the CARES Act to be distributed to local governments.

The budget also included from the CARES Act $300 million for public schools and $200 million for colleges and universities.

"With this funding, we will buy more (personal protective equipment) and provide things for law enforcement, for first responders who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. We will also be able to provide medical locations outside of traditional hospitals and be able to staff those locations with health care professionals," he added.

The passed budget also included approximately $1.29 billion from the "State Emergency Management Federal Stimulus Fund" to be used for "expenses of any state agency responding during a declared emergency at the direction of the governor, provided the services furnish immediate aid and relief."

The Legislature left language vague so as to not back itself into any corners — either miss out on federal funding or have to come back to the Capitol during the pandemic to authorize the receipt of more. But it's understood, as stated in the amendment from Parson's office that included the funding, that that part of the budget is for acquiring and distributing PPE and other health equipment, and to staff alternate care, isolation and quarantine facilities.

Dan Haug, the state's budget director, told the Missouri Senate's Appropriations Committee last week the state is responsible for staffing such facilities — the first of which is being set up this weekend at a hotel in Florissant.

The employees who work at such places would be considered full-time state employees, based on working more than 30 hours per week and for more than 45 days, though Haug said it's intended that they be taken out of the budget once they're no longer needed.

Haug said he hoped at least some federal money in the budget would come by the end of month. More details about the timing of its arrival, whether the state should expect lump sums or smaller payments and guidance on how to spend it, were expected to come out after Easter.

Parson said Friday he has asked state Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick to lead an advisory group to recommend how to best spend the federal money.

The governor said the advisory group will "study and analyze the federal relief available to the state of Missouri, our citizens and our businesses," and the Office of Administration's budget and planning team and his office will be involved.

In leading the group, Parson said, Fitzpatrick will work with "key legislative budget members, members of our federal delegation and our state budget team."

"It's in the best interest of the state and its citizens to identify best practices and procedures, for ensuring we all get the maximum relief and benefits available" under federal legislation, Fitzpatrick said.

"It's also important that this money is distributed quickly and efficiently to those who will use it, and we have to find the balance between eliminating costly red tape and still ensuring proper oversight for the money as it's sent out from the state treasury," he added.

The passed budget included that at least 25 percent of the CARES Act funds received and deposited into the State Treasury would need to be disbursed to local governments within 10 days of the deposit.

St. Louis and Kansas City may be able to directly request the federal government for aid — something else that will determine how the money is disbursed.

Easter message

In addition to the budget news, much of the rest of Parson's Friday briefing was about offering hope to Missourians amid the pandemic, particularly as this weekend is marked for the state's Christians as the celebration of Easter.

Two local clergymen led those prayers and messages — Rev. Jon Nelson, lead pastor of Soma Community Church in Jefferson City, and Monsignor Robert Kurwicki, of St. Michael's Church in Russellville.

Nelson advised to "go to God when this time gets out of control," "refuse to yield to fear" and remember how much rests in faith.

"Easter's not canceled. Church isn't canceled; it's just online," he said. "This is the time to be the church."

Kurwicki spoke about the followers of Jesus being at their darkest hour on Good Friday, when Jesus had been crucified.

"At this moment of history, we don't know the rest of the story, but we have one thing they didn't have. We have hope," he said.

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