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Posted Monday, June 20, 2011, at 9:04 AM

The major news in Missouri this year has been the inclement weather. The tornadoes in St. Louis and Joplin and the flooding here in Southeast Missouri continue to dominate the news coming out of the Capitol and other government agencies.

These natural disasters have taken their toll on the citizens in the affected areas. A sputtering economy and high unemployment add even more stress to citizens who are working to get their lives back in order.

The Missouri Disaster Relief Jobs Program (MoDRJP) was created to address these issues. The program, funded by a grant from FEMA, will put the unemployed in the 163rd District back to work while helping the recovery in the tornado and flood ravaged areas.

The purpose of MoDRJP is to restore the infrastructure that has been devastated by the weather so we can get back to our normal business routine. The program puts people whose job was displaced by the flooding back to work. MoDRJP hires these workers to clean up and rebuild the damaged areas. The chronically unemployed can also be used in this effort. If you are unemployed or know someone who is, please have them apply at the closest Missouri Career Center.

Those employed through the program will work full-time for a six month period. Their salary is capped at $12,000 for that time frame. Their hourly wage is commensurate with city or county employees working similar jobs. For example, if you are a heavy equipment operator, your salary will be similar to an equipment operator who works for the city or county administering the project.

Cities, counties and townships can submit project applications to the Workforce Investment Board of Southeast Missouri for approval through this program. The projects should focus on debris removal or restoration in public areas and must be from a county with damages related to the official disaster declaration. This includes cleaning out any ditches to mitigate flooding in the future.

Upon approval of the application, the political subdivisions will administer the cleanup and restoration in their own area. These government entities will be required to supply local supervision to those hired through the Missouri Career Centers.

If added employees are needed for supervision, they can be hired and their salary will be paid out of the grant money. Additional clerks can also be hired for any extra paperwork required by FEMA. Political subdivisions should contact my office for more information.

The program will also purchase equipment like chainsaws, shovels and rakes that the city, county or township will be able to keep. The political subdivision will also have the option to lease larger equipment if it is needed to complete their project.

This is a good opportunity to accomplish some much-needed maintenance work on the ditches and rivers in our area and clean up from the flooding. We can mitigate future disasters and put our citizens back to work. It is a win-win for the 163rd District.

In other news from the Capitol, Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, has created an interim committee to study ways we gave improve the aging 911 system. The committee's goal is to bring uniformity to the system across the state.

Our current 911 system is funded by a surcharge on landlines. However, a majority of our citizens have moved away from landline phones to cell phones. This has led to a lack of funding for our 911 systems. This has kept them from upgrading to the equipment needed to keep up with ever-changing technology.

This has created a dangerous situation in our state by hindering the ability of the systems to respond. Many of our counties do not have the ability to locate a person calling on a cell phone, and some counties can't locate a person calling on a landline. Richard LaMunion, the Dunklin County 911 Director, told me that 70% of the calls in Dunklin County come from cell phones. We need to fix this problem so our responders can continue doing the exemplary job they do on a daily basis.

The committee is headed by Rep. Chuck Gatschenburger, R-Lake St. Louis. The committee will report its findings to Tilley by the end of the year. We will most likely address this issue next session.

As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri House. If you would like to discuss any issue, please call 573-751-3629. You can also email me at Kent.Hampton@house.mo.gov. I look forward to hearing from you.

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163rd Capitol Report
Rep. Kent Hampton - 163rd District
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