What’s Happening Report: March 16, 2020

If we were having coffee, we would be doing it over Skype because I am trying to distance myself from social situations. I would talk to you about hand washing, what social distancing means, and cleaning and disinfecting.

I have not been diagnosed with Covid-19. I have not been (to my knowledge) around anyone who is incubating the novel coronavirus.

But we don’t know. We are not testing for community spread. As of noon on Sunday, there have been 127 people tested for Covid-19 in Missouri, nearly all of them have been overseas recently. Until we start testing more widely, we cannot know how widespread the virus is.

Here is what we do know: the virus has a long incubation period, and during this period, it can be spread. It is most often spread because it will be on a surface that someone touches, then they touch their face and it gets into their lungs. This is why hand-washing and deep cleaning are so important.

Many schools have spring break this week. My kids do, and we are staying home. While I am not worried that they will get horribly sick if they contract the coronavirus, I am worried about those who will. We do not need to be spreading it.

All St. Louis city and county schools are closed until April 3. Here are the information pages for schools in District 91: Webster GrovesLindbergh, and Affton. St. Louis City does not have a central repository for coronavirus information, but individual schools have information. All four districts have spring break this week.
In the Legislature, we have limited our business to what is necessary. The Constitution requires we complete a budget by early May. We are working on this on an expedited schedule, with the House budget committee meeting this week on Sunday to finalize and vote the budget out of committee, and the House meeting on Wednesday and Thursday to finalize the budget and get it to the Senate. We are only working on two other bills this week: a Sunshine bill which, I am told, will allow the legislature to close proceedings to the public (but will still allow them to be livestreamed); and a bill to extend the FRA Hospital tax, which is important to make sure hospital funding is continued. The Senate will not meet this week.
Fixing Missouri’s Medicaid system is an issue I have been concerned about for a long time and have spoken about in past newsletters. Missouri House Democrats recently held a press conference about the drops in Medicaid enrollment. We asked the Governor to stop dropping people from Medicaid until a determination has been made as to what is happening. Recently, the 60,000 children who were dropped from the rolls who still qualify made state and national news. Missouri is now, in the media, encouraging those whose children lost Medicaid coverage to re-apply. I believe Missouri should go further, affirmatively reaching out to those who lost coverage and re-enrolling those who still qualify.

I got a letter from the Department last week that makes me very sad. It appears that 3/4 of children who were dropped from the Medicaid rolls were dropped because of paperwork. The Department was requiring some parents to re-apply children for Medicaid when the children turned 1 year old, without a robust system to notify the parents that this was required. I responded to the Department with a list of questions, and I look forward to the Department’s response.

As for my week, I have two committees tentatively scheduled. Health and Mental Health Policy will meet at 9:30 AM on Wednesday. We will vote on HB 1875, which would prohibit MO HealthNet from restricting people’s access to antipsychotic medications. We will also vote on HB 1305 which would require MO HealthNet to provide coverage for Epi-Pens for minors, and HB 2512 which would allow healthcare practitioners to accept and administer controlled substances on behalf of their patients. 

The Rules committee met and heard 26 bills on Thursday. We are scheduled to meet on Monday at 1:00 PM to hear HB 2456, which extends sunsets on taxes for a number of important programs. 

HB 1271, which I filed to prohibit the sale of baby crib bumper pads in order to promote safe sleep for infants, was passed by the Rules Committee on Administrative Oversight on Wednesday.  

Senator Wallingford is working to get SB 974 (identical to my bill HB 1270) through the Senate; it has been referred to the Senate Health and Pensions Committee. Both of these bills would remove the requirement that mailings to recipients of blind pensions be sent certified.

And Senator Wallingford is working to get SB 978 (identical to my bill HB 2378) through the Senate; it has was heard this week in the Senate General Laws committee. This bill requires the Office of Administration to create a report related to the Governor’s Initiative to make Missouri a model employer for people with disabilities.
My office has published a consumer guide but will not be sending it to the district. We have had a small number printed to make available to constituents, please contact my office if you would like a copy. The consumer guide is available through my website from the “District Publication” button.

I am working to build a coalition of people with disabilities in my district. If you have a disability and would like to help advise me on disability issues, please let me know. The concept of “nothing about us without us” is important to me and needs to be part of all policy making, especially relating to people with disabilities.
Medical Bills
If you have received a surprise medical bill, I would like to hear your story. Please e-mail me with the subject “surprise bill” or call my office at573-751-1285 to tell us your story.

The Department of Insurance is available to advocate for customers who think they have been taken advantage of. You can call their consumer helpline at 573-751-4126 to get help on insurance matters.
Women Legislators of Missouri Scholarship

JEFFERSON CITY, MO. – Women Legislators of Missouri are encouraging young women, set to graduate from high school, to apply for a $500 college scholarship. Each year the group selects one student from each of Missouri’s congressional districts to receive the award. Members hope to spread the word about the scholarship opportunity so that female students from all parts of the state will apply.
This is a great opportunity for any young woman, who is interested in continuing her educational studies, to receive some valuable financial assistance.

The Women Legislators of Missouri Caucus created the senior scholarship program to provide financial assistance to students on the basis of leadership, academics and community service. Candidates must fill out an application and are required to submit a 500-word essay answering the question, “If you were a state legislator, what would you hope to accomplish and why?”

A link to download the scholarship is located at https://www.myscholarshipcentral.org

The submission deadline is Tuesday, March 31, 2020. 

The Women Legislators will announce the recipients on Monday, April 6th. The scholarships will be presented and a reception held in their honor on Monday, April 20th in the House Chamber at the Missouri State Capitol. For further information please contact 573-751-2042.
RealID Update
RealID compliant drivers and nondrivers licenses are now available with proper documentation. Please note that the Federal government requires a copy of this documentation be kept for several years. You can go to the DMV and request a replacement for your current license with the Real ID for a $5 processing fee. If you renew your license at the time of the request you will be charged the renewal fee. You need a RealID compliant Identification Card to board an airplane and enter federal buildings; Missouri issued Identification Cards (including drivers’ licenses) will be accepted in lieu of RealID until October 1, 2020. For more information about RealID, go to dor.mo.gov/drivers/real-id-information/.

According to the federal Real ID Act, states must retain paper copies of source documents for a minimum of 7 years, and images/microfiche of source documents for at least 10 years, after which point they are to be irretrievably destroyed. Missouri statute complies with this requirement and permits the Department of Revenue to keep these documents within a system not connected to the internet or accessible by any other state or the federal government.
When you get a RealID, please note that the state is required to keep a digital copy of your data for ten years. If you are using a document with private information for identification, like a bank statement, I believe you can redact that information before they scan it.
Census Update
If you did not receive a letter from the census this past week, you should receive one this week. It will tell you how to go online and fill out the census. I encourage you to go online to fill it out. (Or, if you receive a paper form, to fill it out and return it.)
If you have any problems completing the census, my office is willing to help.

132 government programs used data gathered in the 2010 census to allocate $675 billion in federal funding; some of these programs include SNAP, Head Start, Pell grants, and Medicare. 

Census data is also used to determine how health concerns such as obesity and cancer are distributed across the country, allowing public health officials to target areas of particular concern. 

The counts are used to determine Missouri’s fair share of over $675 billion of federal funding for programs including Medicaid, SNAP, school lunch programs, subsidized housing, roads, and many, many other programs. Each person that is not counted costs Missouri $1,272 in federal funding. 

The data is also used to ensure Missouri’s fair representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Electoral College as well. 
The Census is still hiringApply here. These are good-paying jobs that are important to ensuring everyone is counted.
Capitol Construction
The Missouri Capitol will be under construction for the next two years. Many streets around the Capitol are closed, with signs directing an alternate route. The Capitol Dome is also closed. Construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2020.
Nancy and I will not be meeting people in the office, but we will return phone calls and e-mails. You may call at 573-751-1285 or e-mail at sarah.unsicker@house.mo.gov.

I have two interns this year: Abby, from the University of Missouri, is in the office on Monday and Wednesday. Noelle, from Washington University’s Brown School, is in the office on Tuesday.

I enjoy opportunities to meet with people in the community and participate in local events. It’s one of the best parts of my job!
Thanks for reading. Have a great week!

Representative Sarah Unsicker
91st District