Spring is here and we are already a quarter of the way through 2023! Let’s take a look at what has happened in Missouri thus far and what we have to look forward to in the coming months! Missouri Legislation Legislators are a few weeks away from wrapping up their 2023 legislative session and are rounding up their final edits to the 2024 State Budget which at this time, is projected to be the largest budget in state history at over $47 billion. Some of the highlights from the proposed budget include significant proposed funding for 1-70 expansion and repairs as well as environmental studies on other large highway projects throughout the state. The proposed budget makes investments instate employees across the state in the form of pay raises and educational career ladder funding and works to address the workforce shortages that are felt in every department throughout the state. The Outstate MO team has been busy interviewing newly elected legislators since they were sworn into office in January. We are working on getting to know more about them and their legislative priorities so that you are familiar with those serving our state. To catch up on previous legislative spotlights, visit our website here. Broadband Expansion The Missouri Department of Economic Development, Office of Broadband has been hard at work the past few months touring the state and working through grant awards and federal funding to work toward their goal of connecting ALL Missourians. The department is working through two major federal funding sources right now, the Digital Equity Act (DEA) and the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment(BEAD) program, which are both part of the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act. The state plans to spend more than $100 million toward broadband deployment and more than $20 million toward addressing infrastructure barriers that contribute to the digital divide in our state. The Department is gearing up to kick off their “Connecting All Missourians 2023Spring Outreach Tour” where they will revisit 19 regional planning commission regions across the state and hear feedback from the public as well as answer questions about their plan for Missouri. Meetings kick off in May and a full schedule of the tour can be found here. Even with updated FCC maps, it is critical that the state determine which areas of our state are without access. We encourage you to assist in the state’s broadband efforts by describing the available access in your area through this short survey, which will help guide the state’s expansion and training efforts. Below is a look at all of the state’s federally funded ARPA grant projects and their current status.
Healthcare Many Missourians living in rural areas enjoy the open spaces and quiet landscapes that comes with being outside the cities. Distance from healthcare services can come at a cost though, especially when you consider that these areas of our state have some of the highest agricultural-related accidents. Over the past ten years, Missouri has seen fifteen of its hospitals close down, ten of which were located in rural areas. Rural hospitals face the same challenges as larger, urban hospitals but feel the impact of government reimbursement, staffing shortages, and inflation on an even larger scale. Many Missourians have to travel significant distances to access healthcare, and are at an even bigger disadvantage if they lack reliable internet access to utilize telehealth services. This growing concern across our country is another example of why broadband access is imperative for everyone and why our efforts at Outstate MO will continue to be on fighting for connectivity and resources for all Missourians. When it comes to access to reliable internet, quality healthcare, and rewarding, high-paying jobs, our team at Outstate MO is committed to making your voices heard on the issues that matter most. We will continue to keep you informed of issues that impact you and your families and we are pleased that you have joined us in protecting the rural interests of Missourians and preserving our future for generations to come. Be sure to follow us on social to keep up with all the latest issues in Missouri that impact YOU! Sincerely, Outstate MO Team