Auditor Galloway calls for a COVID-19 relief package to protect Missouri workers, businesses, and our most vulnerable

March 14, 2020

Columbia, Mo.  Auditor Nicole Galloway is calling for additional measures to protect workers, employers, and our most vulnerable citizens as the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow. Galloway’s COVID-19 relief package for Missouri builds upon her call for a declaration of a public health emergency and rapid expansion of testing.

On Friday afternoon, Governor Parson issued an emergency declaration to trigger executive powers to respond to the growing threat of a coronavirus pandemic in Missouri. Earlier in the day, Galloway had urged a declaration of a public health emergency to enable the expansion of testing and healthcare services. Galloway called Parson’s move, “the right decision.” President Trump, in issuing a national emergency declaration, promised broader availability of testing kits for states. Until now, the strict testing criteria, the lack of kits, and the costs associated with the test meant that many carriers of the virus may not have been following guidance and instead actively spreading the illness. 

The additional steps outlined today are things the Governor should do in order to protect workers, employers, and the state’s most vulnerable citizens as expanded testing reveals the extent of the outbreak in Missouri.

“The state of Missouri owes it to workers, their families, and our state’s economic well being to provide assurances that getting sick with COVID-19 won’t lead to the loss of livelihoods,” said Galloway. “Now that Washington has agreed on a bipartisan relief package, it’s time for Missouri to do the same. There are a number of steps that the state can take now to provide confidence to workers and employers that Missouri is prepared. Additionally, the experience of other states has shown the critical importance of protecting our nursing facilities.”

Relief for Workers

Employer-provided paid sick leave is the appropriate first resort for workers who are ordered to isolate or become ill. In cases where that is not provided, the state of Missouri should provide some level of wage replacement. Families should not have to worry about putting food on the table because a wage earning family member is ill or cannot work.

  • If a worker who does not receive paid sick leave through their employer, but follows guidance from medical or public health officials to isolate or quarantine as a result of exposure to COVID-19, or needs to take time off from work to keep themselves or a loved one safe, should be eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • Pursuant to the Governor’s emergency powers, the state should suspend fines and penalties for late renewals for everything from driver’s licenses to tax payments during the duration of the declaration.
  • The Missouri Department of Revenue should extend the deadline for tax filings beyond April 15.
  • Suspend terminations of public assistance such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).

Relief for Employers 

Missouri employers facing hardship from lost productivity should not have to worry about financial penalties from the state for failing to file tax information. Protecting our businesses from bureaucratic red-tape while they face the burden of lost work-hours is the least we can do.

  • Waive penalties for employers who file any tax reports late, pay their taxes late, or do not respond to information requests in a timely fashion as a result of COVID-19.
  • Work with small businesses to minimize the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on their cash flow and families. Work with the state Treasurer to develop short-term loans to small business impacted by the crisis. 
  • Allow small businesses to delay filing quarterly estimated tax payments with the state.

Protecting the Vulnerable

Missourians over the age of 60 are at greater risk of death from this disease. As we have seen in other states, nursing homes are particularly vulnerable. Implementing the latest guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is urgent before an outbreak occurs in a Missouri nursing or long-term care facility. 

  • The federal visitor restrictions will be challenging for residents and their families, but it is an important measure to protect the vulnerable. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) should develop ways for families to check on the well being of loved ones in licensed facilities throughout the duration of the emergency.  
  • Disaster funds for personal protective equipment and isolation units should be a high priority for nursing and long-term care facilities.
  • Logging visitors and retaining logs for 30-days or beyond to provide vital information should an outbreak occur.

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