Our communities have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn — the deepest since the Great Depression. Nearly 700,000 Missourians have been laid off since the beginning of March, and the state’s unemployment rate jumped from 3.5% in February to 10.1% in May. As a result, our state’s tax revenues are plummeting, creating a looming budget crisis that, without federal assistance, will result in painful cuts to education, health and public safety.

While “budget cuts” can seem ambiguous, it ultimately means more Missouri jobs are lost, more Missourians struggle without services they need and our economy slows down even more. Budget cuts mean laying off teachers, child care workers, first responders, aides that assist Missourians with developmental disabilities, contractors working on infrastructure projects, social workers, mental health and health care providers, and more. The loss of these jobs would make it harder for our communities to get back on their feet and would only worsen the recession, delay recovery, and harm families and communities.

Unlike the federal government, Missouri and other states must balance their budgets and cannot run a deficit — not even during a pandemic with an unprecedented economic fallout. Only the federal government can access the resources that Missouri needs to prevent an even deeper and longer recession.

That’s why the bipartisan National Governor’s Association called on Congress to provide direct grants to states as well as an additional increase to the match it provides states for Medicaid services that would be tied to state unemployment rates. Nationally, states are expected to see budget shortfalls of $555 billion through fiscal year 2022, not including additional shortfalls that local governments face. In Missouri, the drop in revenue is already resulting in significant state budget restrictions. Since April, Gov. Mike Parson has been forced to make more than $800 million in budget restrictions. Those cuts have affected a variety of critical services including education, child welfare, services for people with disabilities and more.

Without additional federal fiscal relief, the governor and Missouri legislators will have to further cut an array of vital public services including health, education and public safety. These cuts come at a time of increased need. Schools face increased costs for distance learning, cleaning protocols and efforts to social distance. As Missourians are laid off or furloughed, more find themselves in need of nutrition assistance. And the state government itself must provide additional vital services such as processing spiking unemployment claims and monitoring the pandemic — all on top of the services we all take for granted every day.

What’s more, state budget cuts will only worsen Missouri’s economy and delay its recovery. A broad array of economists have noted that the U.S. didn’t do enough in 2008 to help working people and state governments, which lengthened and deepened that recession, and have urged the federal government to step in now to prevent further cuts from being made at the state and local levels.

We urge Missouri’s congressional delegation to act quickly to help Missouri families and our economy by approving both additional, flexible state stabilization funds and an increased federal match for state Medicaid programs that is tied to economic conditions. By acting now, Congress can prevent painful budget cuts that will harm the health and economic security of thousands of Missourians and prolong the recession.

Maxine Clark, founder, Build-A-Bear Workshop and CEO of the Clark-Fox Family Foundation

Theresa Ruzicka, president of Catholic Charities of St. Louis

Robin Phillips, CEO of Child Care Aware of Missouri

Vickie Dudley, executive director of the Children's Center of Southwest Missouri

Denise Cross, president and CEO of Cornerstones of Care

Lori Ross, president and CEO of FosterAdopt Connect

Toby Teeter, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce

Brian Schmidt, executive director of Kids Win Missouri

Ann McGruder, executive director Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging

Amy Blouin, president and CEO of the Missouri Budget Project

Brent McGinty, president and CEO of the Missouri Coalition for Community Behavioral Healthcare

Mary Chant, CEO of the Missouri Coalition of Children’s Agencies

Dawna Fogarty, executive director of the Missouri Community Action Network

DeeAnn Aull, executive director of the Missouri NEA

Susan Rupert, president of the Missouri PTA

Nancy Cross, president, SEIU Missouri/Kansas State Council, vice president, SEIU Local 1

Tom Chulick, president and CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber