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State focuses on assistance for citizens, businesses

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Over the course of the past week, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s office has announced a number of measures aimed at helping the state’s families, “vulnerable” citizens and businesses.

In addition to announcing an order restricting gatherings of 10 or more people on Saturday, Parson’s office said via a news release he and his administration “are taking steps each day to respond accordingly and protect the health and well-being of Missourians.”

State outlines social service program changes

“My administration and I are committed to providing quality healthcare to those most dependent on state assistance and ensuring access to those in need of medical services or medications,” Parsonsaid, focusing on MO HealthNet, the state’s Medicaid and health care coverage program. “A health care provider's primary focus should be on delivering what a MO HealthNet participant needs to remain healthy during this time, not on the participant's coverage.”

The release said the governor has granted  “flexibility for the Missouri Department of Social Services to provide reassurance and clarity regarding services to our state’s most vulnerable population.”

Measures related to the program include not terminating eligibility, extending eligibility to more Missourians who test positive for COVID-19, relaxing prescription refill and prior authorization requirements and expediting enrollment applications. 

According to the release, the state will also waive the co-payment for any telehealth services for program participants.

In addition, work requirements for the food stamp/supplemental nutrition assistance program — known as SNAP — will be waived.

When it comes to the state’s child care subsidy program, other measures include the extension of child care subsidy benefits for 90 days, the extension of provider application renewals for 90 days and the approval of additional hours of care for some families.

Department of Revenue relief

According to a March 21 news release from Parson’s office, “the Department of Revenue has contributed to our state’s response by easing the burden and short-term uncertainty facing our state.”

Mirroring federal guidance by the Internal Revenue Service, the Missouri DOR will provide special filing and payment relief to individuals and corporations:

● Filing deadline extended: The deadline to file income tax returns has been extended from April 15 to July 15.

● Payment relief: Income tax payment deadlines for individual and corporate income returns with a due date of April 15 are extended until July 15. This relief applies to all individual income tax returns, income tax returns filed by C Corporations and income tax returns filed by trusts or estates. The DOR will automatically provide this relief, so filers do not need to take any additional steps to qualify. This relief for individuals and corporations will also include estimated tax payments for tax year 2020 that are due on April 15. Penalties and interest will begin to accrue on any remaining unpaid balances as of July 16. Individuals and corporations that file their return or request an extension of time to file by July 15 will automatically avoid interest and penalties on the tax paid by July 15.

In addition, DOR has implemented automatic extensions for expiring driver licenses and motor vehicle registrations. These extensions are effective immediately, the release said.

Vehicle owners with registrations or license plates expiring in March and April have been granted an automatic two-month extension. Owners will be able to continue operating their vehicles on Missouri roadways without penalty until they can apply for renewal, the release added.

The timeframe in which a vehicle safety and emission inspection is valid for March and April license plate expirations has also been extended an additional 60 days. Applicants for title will not be assessed a late title penalty when visiting a license office, effective immediately. The waiver will continue through April 30, the release said.

While valid Missouri driver licenses, nondriver licenses and noncommercial instruction permits with original expiration dates of March 1 through April 30 have been granted an automatic 60-day extension, the measure does not waive mandatory retesting requirements for anyone who has let a license expire for 184 days. Also, individuals who have been notified they must complete additional testing as part of a medical review program requirement now have an additional 60 days to comply, the release added.

Support for small businesses

Recognizing recent impacts on the state economy, the U.S. Small Business Administration approved Missouri’s request for assistance through the federal agency’s disaster loan program, according to a Missouri Department of Economic Development news release.  

This move makes low interest disaster loans available to small businesses and private nonprofits severely impacted by the coronavirus, the release said. 

The Economic Injury Disaster loans offer up to $2 million in assistance for each affected small business or nonprofit. 

“These loans can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing,” the release said.

Gail Noggle, executive director of Polk County’s Economic Development Alliance, said while financial resources are becoming available, they are limited. 

“I would encourage all businesses to be vigilant with the SBA process and focus on the Disaster Relief Program that Missouri was just approved for over the weekend,” Noggle said. “Your Economic Development Alliance team is constantly researching additional possible programs that may help pull a business owner through this time of need.”

She said she’s been in touch with several local businesses that are taking advantage of the program. 

The release said eligibility for a loan — with an interest rate of 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits — is “based on the financial impact of the coronavirus,” the release said.

The release said the loans come with long-term repayments, up to a maximum of 30 years, “in order to keep payments affordable.”

To apply for a loan, download an application or receive additional disaster assistance information, visit disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth TX 76155.

Applicants may also call SBA’s customer service center at 800-659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information. 

Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call 800-877-8339. 

The deadline to apply is Monday, Dec. 21.

For more information, visit the SBA disaster assistance website at SBA.gov/Disaster.

Nonprofit organizations designed to help with child care, needs for seniors, transportation, food insecurity and other needs for at-risk populations can also find assistance through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, according to a news release.

“Organizations can apply for those grants on an ongoing basis, and the foundation will announce an accelerated grantmaking process in the coming days,” the release said. 

More information is available online at cfozarks.org/COVID19

Noggle said people can also find updated information on support of businesses and nonprofits by clicking on the “economic development” tab on the City of Bolivar website, Bolivar.mo.us, as well following the City of Bolivar and the Polk County Economic Development Alliance Facebook pages.   

Aside from disaster loans, local residents can help small businesses during this time, as well, Noggle said. 

She suggested purchasing gift cards or planning ahead for future gifts for anniversaries, birthdays and Christmas. 

“Buy now through a call to the merchant or directly to their website,” Noggle said.    

She also suggested patronizing local restaurants with curbside service. 

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