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Missouri lawmakers approved what is likely one of the largest supplemental budgets ever Wednesday.
More than $6 billion in spending authority is now headed to the governor’s desk to fight the coronavirus outbreak, much of which is expected emergency aid from the federal government.
It remains to be seen exactly how much federal money the state will receive and how exactly it will be spent, but the legislation offered a broad outline of where much of the money could go.
A large portion is intended to blunt the impact of the pandemic on institutions’ budgets.
More than $1 billion is set to be distributed to local governments to help them cover expenses as they fight the virus and stay afloat as sales tax receipts plummet, for example.
The state’s K-12 schools could be in line for even more, and the state’s public colleges and universities are set to receive money from a $200 million pot of cash. A total of about $31.3 million is earmarked for Springfield-based Missouri State University; the University of Missouri system’s number is $138.7 million.
Some of that money is expected to help colleges absorb some of the cuts Parson made to their budgets last week to brace the state’s coffers for declines in revenue.
The legislation also sets aside nearly $50 million for stipends for front-line state workers in places like prisons and veterans’ homes and $20 million for child care providers to “prevent them from going out of business” and keep them available for key workers like nurses and doctors.
In his daily news conference, Gov. Mike Parson said he planned to sign the legislation soon, though he added his office would have to review it first.
The legislation was passed shortly after the state reported the latest data on the virus’ spread.
As of 2 p.m., the state was reporting a total of 3,327 confirmed cases, 290 more than had been reported 24 hours earlier.
The state also reported five new deaths, bringing the overall total to 58. The newly reported deaths came in Kansas City and the counties of Cape Girardeau, Lincoln, St. Francois and Ste. Genevieve.
Those numbers do not include some cases and deaths reported by local governments, a recurring issue with the data.
The totals also may not reflect the full number of people who have contracted the disease because some may not have had symptoms or have not been tested, nor do they include the number of people who have recovered from the disease.
But top officials have suggested slowing daily growth means the spread of the virus has slowed in recent weeks as social distancing and stay-at-home rules have taken effect.
“The rate of new infections has leveled off across our state and our region,” Dr. Stevan Whitt of MU Health Care said Monday. “Our hospitals are able to keep up with the needs of the seriously ill, and we now have more people in the recovery phase than we have new infections.”
On a local level, St. Louis County continued to lead the state in confirmed cases at 1,302. The city of St. Louis had 444.
On the other side of the state, Kansas City has 249 and Jackson County outside the city had 176.
Columbia’s Boone County added one case to reach 78 and Springfield’s Greene County had 71, a daily increase of four, according to the state.
Separate data compiled by the Missouri Hospital Association from 118 of the state’s 154 hospitals showed 519 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Tuesday morning, a 2.1 percent increase over the day before.
Those hospitals also had 516 patients “under investigation” for the virus, a 9.3 percent increase from the day before.
Roughly a third of crucial intensive care beds were available among hospitals surveyed. More than half of those facilities’ potentially lifesaving ventilators remained available.
Hospitals in the St. Louis area are also set to get some help. State officials said Wednesday they would have a hotel in Florissant converted to provide 100 additional hospital beds in the coming days.
Nationwide, there were more than 419,000 cases and 14,000 deaths as of 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
Worldwide, there were more than 1.4 million cases and more than 87,000 deaths.
The legislation is House Bill 2014.
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader’s politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at email@example.com. You can also support local journalism at News-Leader.com/subscribe.
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