Workforce development and infrastructure, as well as federal COVID-19 relief spending, are likely to be among the priorities laid out Wednesday in Missouri Gov. Mike Parson's annual State of the State speech.
The State of the State Address will be at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Missouri state Capitol. Members of the House of Representatives, state Senate and Missouri's Supreme Court will gather in the House chamber to hear Parson lay out foundational priorities for the year.
Kelli Jones, communication director for the governor, said Parson's speech will be just under an hour long and touch on some of the issues he has championed while in office, including workforce development, education and infrastructure.
Parson told state lawmakers last fall they need to start with education and creating an informed, skilled workforce if they want to make progress in public policy elsewhere.
He has also been a major proponent of skilling up Missouri's workforce and has supported several state initiatives to do so, like the Fast Track Workforce Incentive grant that provides adults with money to pursue education and apprenticeships in high-need areas.
"His focus from the very beginning has been on workforce development/education and infrastructure, and those two things we're showcasing quite a little bit," Jones said.
In addition to regular supplemental budget proposals, Jones said Parson's speech will be laying out his plans for federal COVID-19 relief money the state received from the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress last March.
Last summer, Parson announced he was using $400 million in ARPA funds to increase internet access around the state. He has also committed some funds to improve Missouri's water infrastructure and is announcing more specific allocations and plans during his address.
"Every Missourian should be able to be touched with that, whether it's through workforce, whether it's through agriculture, healthcare, DSS (social services), I mean every agency," Jones said.
Missouri received a total of $2.6 billion in ARPA funds and the governor is expected to encourage local governments to actively seek funds for needs and projects.
Missouri's Office of Administration offers on its website guidance for ways of tapping into those funds. The state's ARPA Toolkits give detailed suggestions on some uses for ARPA money.
Guidance is broken down into six categories: public health; public safety; economic development; water, wastewater and stormwater; broadband; and behavioral health.
The toolkit points out that funds may be used for small businesses, nonprofits, industries that the pandemic has adversely affected, costs connected to public health assistance, and disproportionately affected populations or communities.
Businesses and nonprofits may obtain loans, grants, in-kind assistance, technical assistance and other services.
Money may be used to improve tourism, travel, hospitality and other industries challenged during the pandemic.
ARPA funds may be used for programs aimed at disproportionately affected populations by improving access to health and social services by accessing public benefits, remediating lead paint or other lead hazards, or intervening in community violence.
The funds may go to programs that address housing insecurity, lack of affordable housing or homelessness by offering supportive housing, development of affordable housing, and housing vouchers or relocation to neighborhoods with higher levels of economic opportunity. That may reduce concentrated areas of low economic opportunity.
Another focus of the administration has been extending broadband to every home in Missouri.
The Missouri Emergency Broadband Investment Program funds projects that allow rural Missourians to connect. For example, one grant helped Socket Telecom to construct a fiber network to St. Martins' Verdant Lane neighborhood.
Projects that will improve rural broadband infrastructure will benefit the state's economy, Parson's staff has pointed out.
Broadband providers, state and local governments and nonprofits may use ARPA money to help increase infrastructure in unserved or underserved areas of the state. They may provide grant reimbursement programs to expand infrastructure in public/private partnerships or they may begin broadband infrastructures.
Some organizations may use funds to establish affordability programs, support digital literacy, improve cybersecurity and offer device-lending programs.
Funds may be used for technical planning, consultant services and administrative costs associated with managing ARPA funds.
Jones said the governor will also be highlighting some of the positive developments within the state over the past year.