We agree with Gov. Mike Parson and the Missouri legislature’s attempts to plug federal aid into the state budget to fight a pandemic that’s spinning out of control.
The amount of money being added, $1.2 billion, isn’t too little. But is it too late?
On Wednesday morning (Nov. 10), the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Missouri broke a “litany of records on Tuesday for COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.”
Hospitalizations have more than doubled since July to more than 2,000 patients. As of this writing, the state has seen more than 3,300 deaths.
Of the $1.2 billion being budgeted, the vast majority is coming from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and must be spent by Dec. 30. About $12 million will come from the state’s general revenue fund.
The biggest chunk of the funding, about $140 million, will go to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to ramp up testing and contact tracing, reporting and other related expenses.
Much of the rest will go toward social welfare programs.
One problem with the relief package is that the federal government is giving us — and other states — money it doesn’t have.
So what’s another $1 billion or so when the country’s debt already tops $26 trillion?
The late U.S. Sen. Everett McKinley reportedly cautioned federal spending had a way of getting out of control, saying, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”
That was before he died in 1969 when the federal debt was measured in billions (it was roughly one-third of a trillion).
These are unprecedented times, with little questioning about unprecedented spending.
No doubt, the money will help. But if the federal aid was forthcoming earlier, why are we waiting until now?
Some experts have predicted the worst is yet to come this winter, but the virus will start to dissipate early in 2021.
So, while much good still can be done with the money, it seems to us the biggest bang for the buck would have been to use it to further ramp up testing and contact tracing earlier. Perhaps we wouldn’t be in the dire straits we’re in now.
So let’s put the money to good use, and do so quickly.
This was originally published by the Jefferson City News Tribune and is reprinted with permission.