Senator Denny Hoskins Capitol Report
On March 21, the governor instructed all Missourians to practice social distancing in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus in our state. Specifically, the governor asks us to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, to take advantage of carry-out and delivery options instead of dining in restaurants or bars, and to refrain from visiting nursing homes, long-term care facilities, retirement homes and other places where we could potentially expose vulnerable people to the COVID-19 virus. Furthermore, the governor has ordered all K-12 schools to remain closed at least through April 6. It’s important to know that this order does not prohibit schools from providing child care or food and nutritional services.
Despite these extreme measures, the coronavirus continues to spread in Missouri. As I write this, there are more than 250 reported COVID-19 infected persons in our state, including at least one each in Johnson and Lafayette Counties. We know that where there is one, there are likely more, so the numbers are surely higher.
A number of communities across the state have imposed mandatory stay-at-home orders. I’m not aware of any communities within the 21st Senatorial District that have taken that step, but the call for social distancing applies throughout the state. Even where the strictest orders are in place, residents are still allowed to go to the grocery store, visit health care facilities, go to the bank, gas up their car, report to work at essential businesses and continue many aspects of their daily lives. We are still allowed to take walks, exercise and get outdoors to further our physical and emotional well-being. Still, if you must interact with others, please keep your distance and wash your hands.
All state offices are temporarily closed to the public. That includes the State Capitol. State parks and conservation areas are open, but visitor’s centers and other indoor facilities are closed. The campgrounds are also closed. Fishing is still an option and, in fact, the Department of Conservation is waiving permit requirements through April 15.
To help Americans make it through the economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Congress has crafted a stimulus package to provide relief directly to workers and businesses. Preliminary reports say this legislation will include direct $1,200 payments to many Americans, a federal boost to state unemployment insurance programs, loans to businesses and financial support for states, communities and major industries. Small businesses in Missouri are also eligible to apply for low-interest economic disaster recovery loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Businesses can borrow up to $2 million to cover expenses and may have up to 30 years to repay the loan. For more information, or to apply online, visit www.sba.gov or call 800-659-2955
Temporary changes are also being made to the MO Healthnet system. The Department of Health and Senior Services will not terminate eligibility for any Medicaid recipients while the governor’s emergency declaration is in effect. Also, coverage is being extended to Missourians, age 19-64, who test positive for COVID-19 and meet the income and resource eligibility guidelines. The state is also relaxing requirements related to prescription refills and prior authorizations, expediting new provider enrollments and waiving co-payments for telehealth consultations.
During the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, Missouri’s Family Support Division will waive work requirements for the SNAP (food stamp) program. Also, child care subsidy benefits have been extended for 90 days. Child care providers will also have more time to submit license renewals and allowable hours of care may be increased on a case-by-case basis.
Both the IRS and the Missouri Department of Revenue have postponed the deadline for filing returns until July 15. To alleviate public congestion at local license offices, the Department of Revenue is granting automatic 60-day extensions for driver’s license and motor vehicle registration renewals. Dates are also being extended for vehicle inspections, non-driver’s licenses, and non-commercial instruction permits.
For more information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ website at www.health.mo.gov, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov. For information about how the coronavirus impacts individual programs of state government, please visit the relevant agency online. Each department of state government has posted information about their specific response to the crisis.
The Missouri Senate is in recess this week. Normal legislative activity is scheduled to resume on March 30, but we’re waiting to hear whether that will happen. There are important actions the Legislature needs to take before May 15 – not the least of which is our constitutional mandate to pass a balanced budget – so I hope we’re back in the Capitol soon. In the meantime, please continue to reach out to my office by email or phone. We’ll do our best to assist you however we can.
As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-4302. You may also email me at email@example.com.