Gov. Mike Parson announced $47 million in new state budget cuts during his Monday COVID-19 briefing, just over half to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The new cuts are in addition to $180 million announced April 1.

Mallory McGowin, communications coordinator at DESE, said the department learned about the cuts Monday. The single largest cut to education, $15.8 million, would have gone directly to schools, and DESE will be getting information to individual districts Tuesday.

Another $7 million would have reimbursed transportation costs.

“We were obviously anticipating seeing budget issues because of the COVID-19 pandemic and what it is doing to the economy here in Missouri, so we were anticipating this and not surprised to see it,” McGowin said. But she said DESE knows the reduction “makes the work our local schools are doing a little bit harder when they don’t have the full funding they need to make that happen.”

Other cuts made by Parson on Monday take money from other state agencies, including the Office of Administration and the Department of Economic Development.

“These are not easy decisions, and they are not made lightly, but this is the right thing to do to ensure our budget is balanced, and we are financially prepared to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 moving forward,” Parson said.

In his role as MU interim chancellor, UM System President Mun Choi announced Monday that, in part because of the previous state budget cuts made to higher education, his office has been in contact with every division at the university to plan for ways to make up for the shortfall, both short- and long-term.

He said because of uncertainty with future state funding and other revenue streams, plans are being made for a 12.5% cut for the upcoming year’s budget, which begins July 1. As the university’s financial situation becomes clearer in the coming months, those cuts could be reduced or increased.

Choi reiterated previous comments about the types of financial actions that are coming.

“We expect other measures, including layoffs, furloughs and reorganizations, will be needed,” he wrote in a statement, adding that “the exact timing of those actions will vary, as some may be necessary in the coming weeks,” while others may be further away.

Mask money refunded

Also Monday, Missouri Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten announced that the state has reached an agreement with one of the three mask vendors from which it sought refunds after a shipment of KN95 masks failed to meet standards.

The Missouri State Emergency Management Agency first recalled 48,000 KN95 masks April 13, when testing conducted on those masks by the Department of Health and Senior Services found issues with the ability of the masks to seal on the wearer’s face.

On Friday, Karsten said the state had been given a full refund from the first vendor and a refund on the state’s advance payment from the second vendor but that the third vendor refused to return the state’s advance payment.

Karsten said that on Monday morning, SEMA was offered a refund for the KN95 masks. Karsten said the agreement was reached after “a series of communications” among Karsten, SEMA Acting Director James Remillard and the vendors.

“During those talks, it became clear the vendor was not opposed to, and never was opposed to, refunding the state the deposit paid for the order,” Karsten said. “The vendor delivered a product that performed to filtration specifications but did not fit the way we expected.”

Karsten said the vendor is committed to helping the state obtain more personal protective equipment and that the state will continue to conduct business with all three vendors but will no longer be purchasing KN95 masks.

Parson was also joined by MO HealthNet Director Todd Richardson, who praised “unprecedented collaboration” between state departments, private health care partners and academic institutions. That cooperation, he said, combined with social distancing practices, appears to have contributed to slow the rate of new COVID-19 infections.

Richardson also said that the state’s health care system capacity has “expanded dramatically” and that data indicates that Missouri will not see a critical shortage of intensive care unit beds or ventilators as long as social distancing practices continue.

“We are equipped to respond nimbly, creatively and quickly to ensure that Missourians are safe and soon back to work,” Richardson said.

As of 2 p.m. Monday, DHSS reported 5,807 cases of COVID-19 Missouri, including 94 in Boone County, as well as 177 deaths. More than 56,000 Missourians have been tested for COVID-19.

Watch the full briefing here.

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Spring 2020 state government reporter. I am a senior studying data journalism. I can be reached by email at ashlynohara@mail.missouri.edu or on Twitter at @ashlyn_ohara.

  • Mark Horvit is the state government editor. Call me at 817-726-1621 with story ideas, tips or complaints.

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