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Missouri department asks to boost temporary staff by 26% to distribute COVID funds


As billions in federal COVID-19 funds are sent throughout Missouri, the size of state government will temporarily increase to facilitate the flow of money.

The Department of Economic Development (DED) is preparing for a 350% increase in its budget and requesting a 26% increase temporary in full-time staff. The request comes as the Missouri legislature works to move appropriations forward for billions in federal COVID-19 funds.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), passed last March, provided $1.9 trillion to support urgent COVID-19 response efforts. It also was intended to replace lost government revenue and provide immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses.

DED will distribute approximately $1 billion of Missouri’s $2.6 billion in ARPA funds to fund a wide range of projects.

“Our typical budget is about $261 million at the department and these funds will grow that budget by 350%,” said Shad Burner, director of federal initiatives at DED. “That’s a massive increase. To ensure we are getting these funds out quickly, timely and not creating a burden for our communities and businesses, frankly, we need some additional folks to help us do this.”

ARPA programs will be divided into two areas: community and economic development ($433 million) and broadband ($400 million).

The new temporary positions will support all of DED’s ARPA programs.

“As they are grant funded, these positions will be phased out at the conclusion of the administration of the federal programs,” Burner said in an email to The Center Square.

During a teleconference with approximately 200 government leaders throughout the state in early February, Burner and B.J. Tanksley, who was recently named the DED’s new director of broadband development, provided details on programs prioritized in Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s budget for fiscal year 2023. They also provided information timelines, who can apply for grants and gave examples of eligible expenses.

“This is a generational level of investment when you look at the numbers we’re talking about,” said Maggie Kost, DED acting director. “Even individual programs are funded at unprecedented levels. These are generational investments we’re making across the state and we’re trying to do that in ways that are strategic and that will launch us forward for years to come.”

The largest community and economic development grant will be $250 million devoted to community revitalization. The grant is designed to encourage “strategic investment to revitalize communities and spur economic recovery and growth by supporting local projects in areas such as tourism, downtown development and blight mitigation.” Counties and local municipalities, nonprofits and community development and regional marketing organizations are eligible for the grants and must provide a matching amount of 50%. However, the matching amount percentage will be reduced for communities proving need. Any allowable expense in the federal ARPA guidelines will be eligible for the state grant.

“We see transformational projects coming out of this fund,” Burner said. “We want to see communities coming together and rallying around a project that we partner with them on at the state level.”

Burner said the DED will create funding tiers based on community size and will be seeking feedback from stakeholders throughout the state to shape the grant guidelines.

“We want to ensure that communities of all sizes have access to the funds in this bucket,” Burner said.

This article was originally posted on Missouri department asks to boost temporary staff by 26% to distribute COVID funds

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