JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson announced that Missouri’s Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development will be getting a substantial boost in funding.
Parson announced that nearly $125 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will go toward the department’s workforce development and higher education initiatives.
“Throughout this crisis, the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development has been working hard to support both Missouri’s college students and our workforce,” Parson said. “With budget concerns and job layoffs and losses across the state, workforce development will be critical to our recovery, whether it be through a four-year degree, a community college, a technical school, or other types of job training. This has always been a concern of my administration, and now more than ever it is critical that we have skilled, prepared workers to fill jobs and meet the needs of our economy.”
Department Commissioner Zora Mulligan said the funds will go toward public colleges and universities as well as job centers and training in an effort to boost workforce development and safely resume education in the fall.
“Developing a state budget often requires difficult choices, and the expenditure restrictions announced last week will create significant challenges,” she said during Thursday’s press conference. “I want to thank Governor Parson for using federal funds to mitigate some of those challenges, and I look forward to working with him and members of the General Assembly to release these restrictions as the economy improves. The Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development, together with the state’s colleges and universities and the public workforce system, are ready to be part of the solution.”
$10.7 million of the allocated funds will go toward workforce development, according to Mulligan. Missouri Job Centers are set to receive $1 million to support staff, and the Return Strong program, which provides job training to unemployed or underemployed workers, will receive $9.7 million.
$6.7 million of those funds will go toward job training programs, $2 million will go toward information technology (IT) training, and $1 million will go to the Fast Track Workforce Incentive Program, which helps cover tuition and fees for adult students pursuing an education in an area designated by the department as “high need.”
Colleges and universities are set to receive the rest of these funds. $80 million in CARES funding will go toward reimbursing public higher education institutions for the cost of preparing for the return to in-person education in the fall.
$23.6 million is coming from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, which directs CARES Act money toward educational institutions impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The money will go toward staff, infrastructure, and technology to support remote learning or socially distanced education; support for libraries, laboratories, and other facilities; student services encouraging students’ emotional and physical welfare outside of instruction programs; and support for personnel, payroll, security, and other administrative needs.
$10 million will also go toward the expansion of remote learning capabilities. The department released a report on colleges and universities’ experiences switching to remote learning and found access to reliable internet and equipment to be the biggest concern for many schools. These funds sill go toward reimbursing public institutions for the cost of addressing those concerns.
“This all aligns with the long-term commitment of getting more Missourians into the workforce and making sure those Missourians are productive,” Mulligan said. “The best way to have productive workers is to have them be educated and trained.”