Responding to the Coronavirus
According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), there have been several confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Missouri, including here in Jackson County. This is a difficult time for our community, our state and our nation, but it’s important to stay calm and stay informed. If we manage to do that, I believe we will weather this storm. Below you will find updated information about what is being done to address the coronavirus and the disruptions it has caused in our daily lives.
Jackson County Stay At Home Order
On Tuesday, March 24, Jackson County began requiring residents to stay at home. The order advises all community members to stay at home except to perform essential duties for business continuity or government functions, to get food, care for a relative or friend, receive necessary health care or perform activities related to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Jackson County’s order is in effect until at least April 24, but it may be extended depending on recommendations from public health officials. Several other jurisdictions in the Kansas City Metropolitan area have issued similar orders. I believe the intent of these orders is to ensure the maximum number of people self-isolate in their homes as much as possible.
Missouri’s Response to Coronavirus
On March 18, the Missouri House of Representatives passed a supplemental budget, which includes $40 million to help combat the coronavirus. $33 million of the funding comes from the federal government, while the remaining $7 million is state funding related to the governor’s state of emergency declaration. While the House has passed that supplemental budget, it must also be approved by the Missouri Senate. I hope that lawmakers will be able to return to the Capitol in the near future to address this issue.
On March 21, the governor directed DHSS to order all Missourians to follow a statewide social distancing policy in accordance with guidelines from the president and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This requires every person in Missouri to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people; to refrain from visiting nursing homes, long-term care facilities, retirement homes and assisted living homes unless providing critical assistance; and to avoid eating or drinking at restaurants, bars or food courts – the use of drive-thru, pickup or delivery options is still allowed however.
The governor is also taking steps to help our state respond to the coronavirus. Through executive orders, the governor has been working to streamline government processes, reduce regulations and provide relief to those impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, the governor has granted flexibility to the Missouri Department of Social Services to help some of our state’s most vulnerable. Changes to several programs, including MO HealthNet, SNAP and food stamps, can be found on the Department of Social Services’ website at https://dss.mo.gov/covid-19/.
Assistance for Small Businesses
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently approved Missouri’s request for assistance through the federal agency’s disaster loan program. This move makes low interest disaster loans available to small businesses and private nonprofits severely impacted by the coronavirus. For more information about the loans and how to apply, please visit SBA’s website at sba.gov.
Federal and State Tax Deadlines
The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service recently announced that the federal income tax filing due date was automatically extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. The Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR) similarly extended this year’s deadline for tax filing and income tax payment to July 15.
DOR has granted an automatic 60-day extension to valid Missouri driver’s licenses, nondriver’s licenses and noncommercial instruction permits with original expiration dates of March 1, 2020, through April 30, 2020. Vehicle owners with registrations (license plates) expiring in the months of March and April have been granted an automatic two-month extension and will be able to continue operating their vehicles on Missouri roadways without penalty until they can apply for renewal.
The governor recently signed an executive order delaying all Missouri municipal elections previously scheduled for April 7 until June 2.
On March 12, the Missouri Department of Corrections (MODOC) announced it was suspending all offender visits for the next 30 days at all of its facilities. In order to further protect the health and safety of inmates and staff, a verbal screening process was implemented for any staff member or other person entering a corrections facility, office or other property.
While corrections facilities are closed for visiting, Missourians can still stay connected to inmates. Recently, Securus, the company providing offender phone service in MODOC facilities, announced it would be providing two free, 10-minute phone calls per week to each offender, beginning on March 23 until further notice.
Practice Protective Measures
To help prevent the spread of the virus, DHSS is encouraging people to take the following steps:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands;
- Avoid close contact with others, especially those who are sick;
- Stay home if you are sick;
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands; and
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
Learn more about the coronavirus and what you can do to keep your family safe by visiting DHSS’ website, at health.mo.gov/living/healthcondiseases/communicable/novel-coronavirus/. DHSS has also established a 24-hour hotline to help answer your questions about the coronavirus. The hotline can be reached at 877-435-8411.
Please feel free to contact my office in Jefferson City at (573) 751-1464. For information about committees or sponsored legislation for the 2020 session, please visit my official Missouri Senate website at senate.mo.gov/Cierpiot.