Gov. Mike Parson announced at his Friday COVID-19 briefing that he has signed the state’s supplemental budget, which lawmakers passed Thursday, and that he is establishing a working group to make recommendations on how to best spend the federal funding received by the state.
The group will be led by State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, who said at the Friday briefing that it’s important to make sure that federal dollars are put to best use and that they are distributed quickly and efficiently.
Planning for the funding comes amid continuing increases in COVID-19 cases.
As of 2 p.m. Friday, the state had reported 3,799 positive cases and 96 deaths, an increase from 77 on Thursday and 58 on Wednesday. On Saturday, Missouri’s health department reported 13 new deaths, raising the overall toll to 109. It also reported a total of 4,024 cases.
Missouri received federal money to address COVID-19-related costs through the federal CARES Act, which was signed by President Donald Trump signed into law two weeks ago. The $2 trillion piece of legislation includes over $150 billion for states, with about $2.4 billion headed to Missouri.
“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 the CARES Act,” Fitzpatrick said.
Parson was also joined by Pastor Jon Nelson of Soma Community Church in Jefferson City, and the Rev. Monsignor Robert Kurwicki of the Diocese of Jefferson City.
“This is a time of serious pain and hurt, but this is also a time of faith, faith across denominational lines, because this particular pandemic hits us all equally,” Kurwicki said.
Parson said decisions impacting people of faith have been some of the hardest he’s had to make since becoming governor. His order restricting large gatherings has led to in-person religious services being canceled, including for Easter Sunday.
“But let me just say this: No virus, no government, no piece of paper can keep us from worshipping,” Parson said.
Also during the news conference, Missouri Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten said that personal protective equipment is still the state’s top priority, and that Missouri received 1.8 million surgical masks and 41,000 face shields earlier in the week.
Karsten said the state has also started receiving shipments of PPE from Missouri vendors, and that they are expecting an additional 41,000 face shields and 41,000 other shields to arrive late Friday and over the weekend. Early next week, Karsten said, the state is expecting more hand sanitizer and 3.5 million surgical masks.
Parson added on to Karsten’s comments, saying that next time he wants the state to be better prepared to meet its needs.
“Never again will I be dependent totally on foreign countries or companies outside of the state of Missouri,” Parson said. “We’ve got too many opportunities in this state, too many good people, and next time we’re going to be prepared with our own state companies to take care of Missourians and not be dependent on other states and other countries to meet our needs.”
Watch the full briefing here.