Some Missouri policy experts say federal COVID-19 relief money should be allocated to help struggling Missourians and spur local economies.
The current supplemental appropriations bill under consideration at the Missouri Statehouse would use federal COVID relief funds to replenish the state’s unemployment trust fund. It would happen at the same time the state decreased the unemployment tax assessment for businesses.
Traci Gleason, vice president for external affairs at the Missouri Budget Project, contended a stimulus payment would put the money to better use. “These funds weren’t intended to allow there to actually just be lower business assessments,” Gleason asserted. “We do get a better bang for our buck in terms of local economic activity, as well as helping those folks who are having trouble putting food on their tables by using it for stimulus.”
Current proposals would allocate COVID relief funding to the Department of Public Safety, as well as for COVID mitigation, school nutrition, and other costs related to the pandemic.
Gleason suggested lawmakers provide a $1,000 stimulus payment to anyone who has exhausted unemployment benefits and sending what’s left over to the trust fund. In August, Missouri had 137,000 fewer jobs than one year ago.
Gleason noted there are concerns that extended and special pandemic benefits now available could run out. “As of the end of September, more than 80,000 Missourians had exhausted their regular unemployment benefits,” Gleason observed. “And as we see COVID rates increasing, we expect that unemployment levels could surge as well.” Gleason added many people who have been able to return to work are likely earning less than they did before. She thinks a stimulus payment also would help local businesses as families spend the money.
(Photo courtesy of Missouri News Service)