Missouri is facing multiple crises at once, but Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday he wants community leaders to think beyond short-term recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and its parallel economic disaster.
For communities' economic recovery, Parson said, the Department of Economic Development and its director, Rob Dixon, have been working to create a plan that drives recovery across the state.
Parson said the plan focuses on four main areas: business, community, citizens and infrastructure.
More specifically, that means encouraging communities to use federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stability Act money in strategic ways on critical infrastructure and other programs that have had their importance highlighted by the pandemic.
Parson acknowledged, "There are a lot of needs competing for those funds, but I want to challenge community leaders to think about how we can use these funds strategically, not just to help Missourians recover in the short term, but how we can come out of this crisis stronger than before."
He continued, "As a state, we need to take this opportunity to invest in programs that support strong testing and contact tracing efforts, to help communities respond to COVID-19; train Missourians for high-paying, resilient jobs; close gaps in our broadband infrastructure and improve access to health care and online learning; fund hospital systems in areas that lack access to health care; and strengthen financial assistance programs for main street businesses (that) make our communities such great places to live and work."
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Parson said recommendations along those lines are being shared with communities.
Dixon said his department is prepared to provide additional details and technical assistance to communities and that more information will be coming.
Some examples of high-paying and resilient jobs include working on infrastructure, broadband internet and telehealth, he said.
Extended unemployment benefits available
When it comes to the current unemployment crisis spurred by the pandemic, extended unemployment benefits are available to people who have exhausted their previous unemployment benefits, the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations announced Thursday.
The department said in a news release that Missouri's most recent insured unemployment rate of 5.39 percent triggered a 13-week extended benefits period that began this week.
The unemployment rates of 43 other states have also triggered extended benefits in recent weeks, according to the department's news release.
Missouri's most recent extended benefits program was triggered amid the Great Recession in 2009 and ended April 7, 2012.
Extended benefits means up to 13 additional weeks of benefits are available to people who have exhausted both their regular unemployment benefits and 13 weeks of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation assistance.
Upon the exhaustion of those benefits, the Missouri Department of Labor's Division of Employment Security will issue written notification to all people who are eligible to apply for the new extended benefits program, and the weekly benefit amount under the program is the same as an individual received for regular unemployment compensation.