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Parson Announces $50 Million In Coronavirus Relief Grants For Business; Finishes Bill Signing

Gov. Mike Parson signed the state budget on Tuesday, but withheld $448 million in planned spending due to the economic effects of the coronavirus.
Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio
Gov. Mike Parson signed the state budget on Tuesday, but withheld $448 million in planned spending due to the economic effects of the coronavirus.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Tuesday that he is making $50 million from the federal coronavirus relief funds available to businesses throughout the state.

“The COVID-19 crisis has severely impacted Missouri businesses,” Parson said. “However, this challenge has not stopped them from stepping up and finding new ways to serve Missourians. These critical programs will help Missouri businesses continue their operations, cover costs for increased PPE production, and keep them safe and moving forward.”

One of the grant programs is designed specifically for small businesses and family farms, said Rob Dixon, director of the Department of Economic Development. Businesses with 50 or fewer employees can use this money to cover the interruption of business due to the virus. 

“Funds from these programs can be used to cover salaries of workers during closed or reduced hours, website design to facilitate ecommerce, leasing additional space to accommodate social distancing, and many more efforts to mitigate the effects of COVID-19,” Dixon said. 

Of this funding, $7.5 million will be directed specifically to family farms and ranches. 

In addition, $20 million will be made available to help companies increase production of personal protective equipment. The program will award grant funds to reimburse businesses with high PPE production costs. 

“PPE is critical to our health care response and to the reopening of our economy,” Dixon said. “We need to bring PPE manufacturing closer to home to make sure that we’re not dependent on any other country for these vital products.” 

Dixon said this program has a “tiered and targeted” approach that considers the need for high demand in the future. He said it prioritizes those companies that are already producing PPE. 

Governor finishes 2020 bill signings

On Tuesday, Parson signed nine pieces of legislation into law. One, an omnibus transportation bill, removes the requirement for all motorcyclists in Missouri to wear a helmet. 

Those 26 or older and covered by health insurance do not need to wear a helmet while operating a motorcycle or a motortricycle. 

Parson also signed a bill allowing electronic monitoring, or video cameras, in long term care facilities. 

According to the synopsis of the legislation, “for purposes of abuse and neglect, the bill outlines timelines and reporting requirements for people who might view footage on behalf of a resident and specifies when a video recording may be used as evidence.”

The measure also makes it a misdemeanor to tamper with the device or destroy the footage. 

Another bill signed into law, modifies the definition of a “service dog” to be “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” 

Supporters of the bill said that it was too easy to get documentation stating someone may need an emotional support animal and that some people are using the certification to get out of paying pet deposits and monthly fees to keep their animals in an apartment. 

The legislation also makes it a misdemeanor for anyone who misrepresents a dog as a service dog. 

Despite a shortened session due to the coronavirus, Parson said he was pleased with the work lawmakers were able to do. 

“This year’s legislative session was very challenging for obvious reasons,” Parson said in a statement. “However, the General Assembly pushed through these challenges and continued to work for the people of Missouri. We appreciate their efforts to get several important pieces of legislation across the finish line despite the unprecedented circumstances of COVID-19.” 

Parson said he will announce details about a special legislative session to address violence throughout the state on Wednesday.Follow Jaclyn on Twitter: @DriscollNPR

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Copyright 2020 St. Louis Public Radio

Jaclyn Driscoll is the Jefferson City statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio. She joined the politics team in 2019 after spending two years at the Springfield, Illinois NPR affiliate. Jaclyn covered a variety of issues at the statehouse for all of Illinois' public radio stations, but focused primarily on public health and agriculture related policy. Before joining public radio, Jaclyn reported for a couple television stations in Illinois and Iowa as a general assignment reporter.