Auditor Nicole Galloway calls on Governor Parson to protect Missouri workers as part of phased reopening

May 7, 2020

Columbia, Mo. —  Auditor Nicole Galloway is calling on Governor Mike Parson to provide details for how he proposes to protect Missouri workers and their families as they return to work. Galloway has previously argued that Missouri lacks sufficient testing capabilities to meet the Governor’s own standard of 50,000 tests per week in order to safely reopen the state. Still, Governor Parson has moved forward with the reopening; therefore he needs to provide more answers to the questions being raised by workers.

“Governor Parson has told working parents they must return to work or lose unemployment insurance, and, at the same time, parents should not put their kids in childcare if it isn’t safe to do so,” said Galloway. “The Governor has put Missouri families in a terrible position - to choose between suitable childcare for their children or their family’s paycheck. This is not a plan for a strong economic recovery that leaves no family behind.”

Galloway is drawing attention to several core challenges the Governor should address as part of his phased reopening plan:

Childcare. Workers ordered to return to work while schools remain closed need safe and affordable childcare. The Governor owes Missouri parents a plan for how the state plans to accommodate the children of working parents, especially those who are school aged and were not occupying a childcare facility slot before the pandemic. The government ordered the schools closed, so the government has an obligation to address childcare needs during parents’ work hours, and ensure that distance learning can continue.

On Wednesday, Governor Parson outlined additional funding now available for existing childcare subsidy recipients and for providers who are currently caring for the children of essential workers. However, school-aged children will require additional childcare slots be made available as their parents resume working away from the home. 

Unemployment Insurance Eligibility. Workers who cannot safely return to work, because of personal or family health risk factors, or who cannot find suitable childcare, should continue to receive wage replacement. It is essential to our continued economic recovery that Missourians not be cut-off from their Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in the middle of the crisis simply because returning to work would be unsafe for themselves or a family member. That was the rationale for expanded benefits and additional weeks of aid made available to the state by the federal government.

On Wednesday, Governor Parson said the parents should stay home with their children if they don’t feel safe sending them to childcare, but Missouri has also asked employers to notify the state of workers who do not return to work so that the state can terminate them from their Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This puts working parents in an untenable position.

Healthcare. Hundreds of thousands of working Missourians lack access to health insurance because of the Governor’s opposition to Medicaid Expansion. If returning to work makes these workers ill from COVID-19 the Governor needs to develop a plan. Galloway has called for the Governor to seek a waiver from the federal government to temporarily expand Medicaid during the pandemic so that no worker who becomes sick faces a lifetime of crushing medical debt as a result.

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