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Parson releases $100 million to education

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After withholding a substantial amount of funds earlier this year, Gov. Mike Parson said more than $130 million in CARES Act and general revenue funding will go toward several areas of the state’s infrastructure — with a majority earmarked for education.

“As a result of our Show Me Strong Recovery Plan, we are outpacing our projected budget forecast, and we are now in a position to release some of the funding that was restricted earlier this year,” Parson told reporters Wednesday. “Today, I am happy to announce over $133 million to support critical services in several areas, including nearly $95 million in CARES Act funding and $40 million in general revenue.”  

Nearly $100 million is set to go towards the state’s education system with $61.5 million in CARES Act funds for elementary and secondary education and $26 million set aside for higher education. That includes community colleges and public four-year institutions as well as an additional $10 million allocated for private colleges and universities.

“Our colleges and universities across the state have worked immensely hard to get students back to learning in a safe manner,” Higher Education Commissioner Zora Mulligan said in a statement. “Adapting to this pandemic has caused a financial burden on many institutions, including Missouri’s private schools. All Missouri students should be able to have the support they need during this time, so we are pleased to see CARES Act funding being allocated for this purpose.”

Cliff Smart, president of Missouri State University, praised the move on social media, noting it would fund half of the Bright Flight scholarship program. 

The remainder of the CARES and general revenue funds were set to go to assisted living and residential care facilities, childcare facilities, and those experiencing barriers to entering the workforce. 

Parson withheld about $436 million in spending over the summer, with more than $172 million restricted from the state’s education system, in June. 

Parson said the allocation was due in large part to the health of Missouri’s economy. Projections at the time of the withholds predicted Missouri’s unemployment rate would be as high as 16 percent. But recent unemployment numbers sit at 7 percent — less than half of the original estimation and more than 1 percent below the national average. 

Parson also cited the latest general revenue report, which showed a 3 percent increase in net general revenue collections over last September.