What’s Happening Report: March 23, 2020

If we were having coffee, I would talk with you about life in the age of quarantine. St. Louis City and County are under a stay-at-home order until April 22. How do you stay sane during this time?

I have been enjoying more time with my family. We have been watching movies and playing video games together. We started a family book club and are all reading The Girl who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. I got my kids excited about writing in a journal by telling them it is a first person account of history. I am also doing Facebook Live events on weekdays at 2:00 PM at http://www.facebook.com/Unsicker91.

We also, of course, talk about hand washing, what social distancing means, and cleaning and disinfecting.

One of my colleagues, Joe Runions, has been diagnosed with Covid-19. He was in the hospital all of last week. He is expected to recover, but for him, this was a very serious illness. We believe contracted it in the Capitol on Tuesday, March 10, and his last day in the Capitol was Thursday, March 12.

For many people, Covid-19 symptoms are mild. But for people who are older or immune compromised, and even for some healthy people, it can be serious or even deadly.

My greatest concern is that we not overwhelm the hospital system. If this spreads quickly, our hospitals will quickly become overwhelmed in urban areas. In rural areas, where they do not have as robust of a hospital system, I am extremely concerned about the ability of the healthcare system to handle Covid-19 in addition to normal healthcare issues such as heart attack, childbirth, broken legs, and other issues that could require immediate care on a regular basis. I gave a floor speech about Washington’s medical crisis due to Covid-19 last week.

I am also concerned that, in our effort to save lives, we are harming, or even destroying, peoples’ livelihoods. There are several things in place to help people and small businesses:
*SBA disaster recovery loans have been approved and are available for businesses. Find information at https://ded.mo.gov/content/sba-approves-disaster-declaration-missouri.
*If you are temporarily without work, you can apply for unemployment benefits. They are available without having to prove you are looking for employment if you check the “Covid-19” box. See more at http://labor.mo.gov/coronavirus. Business owners can also fill out a bulk application for all of their employees.
*Evictions are temporarily on hold, and many court proceedings are delayed.
*Many utilities have agreed to not shut off service during this crisis
*The deadline for filing Income Tax has been moved to July 15
*Drivers’ Licenses and motor vehicle licenses that are set to expire are given a 60 day extension

If you or your business needs help with these or other issues, my office stands ready to help.

All St. Louis city and county schools are closed until April 3. With the stay-at-home order, this will likely be longer. Here are the information pages for schools in District 91: 
Webster GrovesLindberghAffton, and St Louis Public Schools.

If your child receives free or reduced priced lunches and you need help with food, please contact my office.

In the Legislature, we have limited our business to what is necessary. The Constitution requires we complete a budget by early May. The House met last week to extend the FRA tax, which is one of the largest sources of revenue for Missouri, and to approve a supplemental budget. The budget committee met to hash out a budget but we did not take that up on the floor. In the supplemental budget, we voted to accept $33 million in additional Federal funds to aid our Covid-19 response. I do not believe this will be enough. Democrats introduced a number of amendments to appropriate state money to address this crisis. None of these amendments were accepted. The Governor has indicated that the Legislature will be going back to Jefferson City to appropriate more money.

The Missouri House Democratic Caucus has put forth recommendations for what the state can do to address the Covid-19 crisis. You can see them at https://www.molegdems.com/covid19.
Fixing Missouri’s Medicaid system is an issue I have been concerned about for a long time and have spoken about in past newsletters. The Federal Families First act gives additional matching funds to states for Medicaid, but one of the conditions of these funds is that they do not cut anyone off Medicaid during this crisis. The good news is, Missouri will not cut anyone off Medicaid during this crisis. Also, if you are diagnosed with Covid-19 and meet the Medicaid criteria for a person with a disability (no more than 85% of Federal Poverty Level; asset limit of $4,000 for individuals or $8,000 for families), you can get Medicaid for 90 days.
The House is on Spring Break during this week and is not scheduled to meet.
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 have not received a census letter, please contact my office. 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, and Noelle, from Washington University’s Brown School. They have been incredibly helpful to my office.

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