Making a stop Wednesday morning at the Howell County Office Building in West Plains, Missouri State Treasurer Vivek Malek met with county and city officials to talk about his support of policies that specifically help farmers, and share his goals for creating economic opportunity for all Missourians, present and future.
Malek talked about the MOBUCK$ program, also known as the Missouri Linked Deposits Program. The program invests in small businesses and agriculture, as well as local governmental entities. With regard to agriculture, it offers reduced-interest loans, backed by state funds and in partnership with lenders, to farmers.
The loans may be used for agriculture startup and production expenses, or for disaster mitigation, as is the case currently with drought conditions in some parts of the state.
In fact, Malek wished to bring attention to one of the latest farm relief loan programs and encourage those producers affected by drought to apply before the deadline of 2 p.m. Oct. 13. The program was announced on Aug. 17.
Malek said $100 million has been budgeted for the MOBUCK$ farm relief loan program, and in the first two weeks of its unveiling, it had applicants collectively requesting about $40 million of that funding, with a $1 million limit per loan.
The program was established based on a May 31 executive order issued by Gov. Mike Parson when he signed a drought alert as part of the Missouri Drought Mitigation and Response Plan. To learn more about the program or to apply, go to the treasurer.mo.gov website and click on the MOBUCK$ link under programs and services. Notarized documentation of drought-related financial loss is required.
In attendance at Malek’s visit, Wendell Bailey, Willow Springs, was state treasurer from 1985 to 1993; he commented on the MOBUCK$ program and its establishment as a way for farmers to get a break on interest rates for farm-related loans.
The program has been so successful, Malek said, he is pushing to have a current $800 million cap on funding for it raised to $1.2 billion.
Other Missouri Linked Deposits Program assistance is available to help other economic interests, including small business creation and growth, alternative energy, job creation and retention, housing and administration and infrastructure costs related to city and county government.
Another focus since Malek was appointed to office in December 2022 has been an effort to return unclaimed property to Missourians, and in the first three days of his administration Malek set a state record of $1.7 million in unclaimed property returned to taxpayers in such a brief time, according to the state treasurer's website. In Howell County alone, roughly $3.3 million in property, from 50,000 accounts, remains unclaimed, Malek pointed out.
He also commented on efforts to get better returns on investments for Missourians, particularly for smaller local and county governments, with the possibility of entering into investment pools to maximize interest earned and using that interest to help fund needs like capital projects and salaries.
Howell County Sheriff Brent Campbell spoke to some of those expenses when discussing the current county facility, with a 55-bed jail that operates at capacity most of the time, including taking in inmates from other counties when their facilities are full. Campbell added the funds have been secured to purchase the land for an expansion, but the construction costs have yet to be covered.
Malek concluded his visit with an overview of his goals for Missouri, and related them to the opportunities afforded him as an immigrant from India who attended graduate school about 22 years ago at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. He earned a master’s in business administration from SEMO, having already earned bachelor’s and law degrees in his native country.
He went on to pass the bar in Missouri and practiced law in St. Louis, but always had a desire to serve the public as an act of gratitude. Prior to being appointed state treasurer by Parson to fill a vacancy left when previous Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick was elected State Auditor, Malek served on the SEMO board of governors, also appointed by Parson, in 2020.
"My goal is to give back, and make sure the opportunities I got are still available to my children and future generations," he said, adding he intends to do that by protecting state taxpayers by getting the best return on investments; upholding the mission of giving back to Missourians through state administered programs like MOBUCK$, college savings and scholarship plans, and savings plans for the disabled; and promoting the promise of America.
"The American dream is alive and well," Malek said. "We need to use it wisely, and not take it for granted."