Representative Jim Neely's Capitol Report
I, for one, support PEACEFUL protest. However, the things that have been occurring around the state and nation, I do not consider to be peaceful. When highways are blocked, the individuals causing the disruption should be held accountable. We cannot continue to allow destruction and violence. These are not PEACEFUL demonstrations. We need to wake up or the America as we once knew it will be lost forever!
Missouri Continues Successful Recovery Efforts
While the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has seen an uptick in recent days, Gov. Parson said the state’s recovery efforts remain on track. The governor said the increase in cases is not a surge or a second wave, but is instead the product of aggressive testing that is meant to box in the virus and prevent further spread.
The governor noted that the state is not overwhelmed and that there are no plans to close Missouri back down. He stated that the vast majority of positive cases are not hospitalized and that Missouri’s hospitals are stable and ICU beds and ventilators continue to become available as more people recover. Parson also said the state continues to monitor the numbers on a daily basis and he remains confident that Missouri is on the road to recovery.
The governor also reminded Missourians that it remains critical that they be aware of COVID-19 and practice social distancing to protect themselves and others. The governor encourages those who can’t practice social distancing to wear a mask and take additional precautions. All Missourians should continue to be proactive, wash their hands, and use common sense.
Unemployment Requirements Set to Return July 5
With the state now fully reopened, the requirements for unemployment benefits that were relaxed during the COVID-19 pandemic are set to be reinstated on July 5. The state’s Division of Employment Security announced that those who wish to receive unemployment benefits will again be required to search for work.
During the pandemic, the state saw the number of unemployment claims increase dramatically. The state lifted the requirement for work-search activities for those who filed a coronavirus-related unemployment claim. In total, the state has paid more than $2 billion in unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment numbers are now dropping as the state has reopened and Missourians are going back to work.
Beginning July 5, claimants will again be required to perform and report three work-search activities per week to remain eligible for benefits. Qualified search activities include, but are not limited to, filing an application with an employer or through job posting sites or attending a job fair, job interview, reemployment service or skills workshop. Individuals with an employer-submitted recall date, in approved training, and those employees on the Shared Work program will be exempt from the work-search requirement.
The division also announced that a one week wait will again be imposed for those filing for unemployment. The waiting week is the first week of a claim for which the individual is eligible for unemployment benefits but during this week, such individual is not paid benefits. Individuals who are approved for benefits may receive compensation for the waiting week as the last payment on the regular unemployment claim.
Additionally, the division announced that employers will once again be charged for unemployment claims against their account. Employers wishing to reduce the amount of charges being made against their accounts are encouraged to report employees that either refuse to return to work or are receiving pay through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Employers can report those instances through their UInteract account or by visiting labor.mo.gov.
Anyone with questions regarding unemployment benefits is encouraged to utilize the division’s virtual assistant at labor.mo.gov and visit labor.mo.gov/coronavirus. Missouri Job Centers are available to assist unemployed workers with work-search requirements by providing customized job searches through jobs.mo.gov, job fairs, Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment (RESEA) appointments, workshops to help develop and refine skills and other training programs. Employers are encouraged to post job openings on MoJobs. For more information about services available through the Missouri Job Centers, visit jobs.mo.gov.
Missouri Achieves Milestone with SAFE Kit Initiative
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt recently announced the state has reached an important milestone as it works to address the significant backlog of untested sexual assault kits in Missouri. In approximately six months, the state has been able to gather more than 1,000 untested kits and send them to a private lab to be tested.
The effort is part of the SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence) Kits Initiative that was launched by Attorney General Schmitt in January of 2019 to inventory all untested sexual assault kits in the backlog, create an electronic tracking system, and send those identified kits to a lab for forensic testing and potentially eventual prosecution. The initiative is a response to a report from October 2018 that found more than 5,400 untested kits in the state.
The legislature has also played a pivotal role in working to address the backlog of sexual assault kits. In 2018 the General Assembly approved HB 1355 to enact requirements for gathering, transmitting and storing the kits. The bill also required the Office of the Attorney General to establish protocols to implement a rape kit tracking system that allows survivors access to monitor the current status of their kit. This year, the legislature approved SB 569 to give victims of sexual assault access to a secure electronic tracking system for their SAFE kits. With this, victims will be able to track the status of their kit throughout the legal process. The bill also requires the Department of Public Safety to develop a centralized repository for evidence that is temperature-controlled to preserve the integrity of the kits and diminish degradation. Additionally, the bill creates a Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights.
Since the effort began to address the backlog of untested kits, 1,021 untested kits have been identified in the SAFE Kit Initiative inventory and shipped to a private lab in Virginia to be tested.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative, I am here to assist you however, I can. I can be reached by email at Jim.Neely@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-0246.