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Government, Politics & Issues

Missouri department lists some of Gov. Parson’s ARPA priorities

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson delivered his State of the State address on Jan. 27, 2021.
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Missouri Governor's Office
Gov. Mike Parson has indicated that expanding broadband access is one of his top priorities for spending the federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Water, economic development and tourism are just some areas of spending Missouri is likely to address with its federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act, as the governor and legislature prepare to allocate billions during the upcoming legislative session.

A presentation by the Missouri Department of Economic Development on Monday gave one of the first glimpses as to how Gov. Mike Parson is planning to prioritize the more than $2.6 billion the state will ultimately receive from the federal act, which congressional lawmakers passed earlier in 2021.

While Missouri has already received around half of its ARPA funding, it has yet to spend it.

The funding allocation will instead go through the state’s regular budget process in the legislature. The money will then become available to spend on July 1, 2022. The state will have until the end of 2024 to allocate the funding and until the end of 2026 to spend it.

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Missouri Department of Economic Development
The Missouri Department of Economic Development presented the ARPA funding process during a presentation that outlined some Gov. Mike Parson's spending priorities for the federal dollars.

Shad Burner, director of federal initiatives for the department, said during the presentation that the process of deciding how the state will spend ARPA money began months ago, with the submission of program proposals from departments across Missouri.

“The governor’s office is intaking all that information that they received from the departments, from the cabinets and they are prioritizing and finalizing what programs they will put forward in the state budget,” Burner said.

Department officials listed seven areas of economic development they expect Parson to prioritize spending ARPA funding on. They are:

  • Broadband
  • Water/Wastewater
  • Workforce development
  • Tourism
  • Site development
  • Community Development
  • Support to small businesses and nonprofits

One of these areas of investment isn’t a surprise. In August, Parson announced his intent to spend at least $400 million in ARPA funding to expand and improve broadband access across Missouri.

“Investing in our broadband infrastructure is critical to unlocking our full economic potential in this state and will serve Missourians for generations to come,” Parson said.

That plan includes increasing access to broadband throughout the state, helping Missouri citizens connect to the internet infrastructure and creating greater technical support.

Paul Eisenstein with the Department of Economic Development said the state might spend money to modify cellphone towers.

“Especially in areas where fiber to the home isn’t an option, there might be an opportunity to build or to retrofit cell towers on public land, so that no matter where you are if you’re a Missourian, where you work or where you live, you have access to high-quality internet,” Eisenstein said.

During the meeting, Eisenstein also gave an update regarding the search for the next director of broadband development, saying a candidate has accepted an offer for the position and will begin in mid-January.

For the state programs funded by ARPA that Parson intends to include in his budget, Maggie Kost, acting director for the Department of Economic Development, said many of them will require a “strong local match.”

“So if you’re a community out there and you’re setting your own priorities, I want you to be really paying attention as the governor releases his budget in January to where you could leverage your local funds and pair that, match that with state economic development programs and funds and ARPA priorities to really get the most out of the funding that’s going to be coming down,” Kost said.

According to the department, Parson will speak on his priorities for spending ARPA dollars as a part of the state’s budget during his State of the State address in the new year, after the 2022 legislature convenes.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg

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