Missouri Minute: Parson requests federal disaster declaration; jobless claims spike

Good morning, MBA readers,

Nearly 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, the Labor Department announced Thursday, shattering the previous record of 695,000 as the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on jobs across the country. In Missouri, about 40,500 people filed jobless claims, up more than 36,000 from the prior week, according to data that are not seasonally adjusted.

Those staggering numbers underscore the need for stimulus, and Congress approved a $2 trillion relief package late Wednesday night to aid laid-off workers as state labor departments scramble to fill unemployment claims. The package is also aimed at bolstering health care systems as hospitals beg for more protective equipment to keep patients and doctors safe amid mass shortages of supplies.

In the meantime, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is looking to the Trump administration for disaster relief to fund the state’s fight against the pandemic after ordering more than $17 million worth of personal protective equipment for health care workers and first responders this week.

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Missouri orders protective gear as COVID-19 cases top 350
Gov. Mike Parson has redirected $18 million in funds for the purchase of personal protective equipment, including 95,000 surgical masks. State officials on Wednesday confirmed that at least 356 people in Missouri have tested positive for COVID-19, and eight have died from it. (Columbia Missourian, Kansas City Star)

Bullard forecasts ‘unparalleled’ economic shock, followed by boom
St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard on Wednesday tempered his earlier forecast of 30% unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic. He said he believes the economy will take “unparalleled” damage in the second quarter and will quickly bounce back thereafter. (CNBC)

Missouri hotels announce layoffs, furloughs
An estimated 17,000 hotel workers in Missouri, and 50,000 in industry-adjacent jobs, have been laid off as COVID-19 grinds economic activities to a halt. Des Peres-based Drury Hotels is the latest to lay off or furlough dozens this week in St. Louis and Cape Girardeau. (Springfield News-Leader, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

AMC Theatres furloughs corporate staff, leadership
The Leawood, Kansas-based cinema chain announced Wednesday that it is furloughing all 600 corporate employees in a dramatic measure responding to COVID-19. Last week, AMC laid off or furloughed more than 26,000 workers across 1,000 theaters worldwide. (Hollywood Reporter)

Parson rejects classifying workers as emergency responders
Gov. Mike Parson said Wednesday that he opposes a request by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655 to reclassify grocery and pharmacy workers as emergency first responders. That would give the workers guarantees like priority testing for the coronavirus. (Missourinet)

Missouri expands food stamp benefits
Families who are due for SNAP recertification will be automatically extended for six months to ensure they have access to benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recipients will also receive the maximum benefits for their household size in April. (Columbia Missourian)

Forecasters warn of Missouri River spring flooding
All counties along the Missouri River have an above-average chance of flooding between late April and early May. The National Weather Service estimates a 30% chance that Jefferson City will see major flooding. (Columbia Missourian)

Virus scare shutters IRS office in KC
A union representing local Internal Revenue Service workers said the agency’s campus in Kansas City, which employs about 5,000 during tax season, will shut down for two weeks after an employee tested presumptive positive for COVID-19. (Kansas City Star)

Missouri lawmakers unsure about return to Capitol
Legislators have until May 8 to pass the state’s $30 billion budget, but they remain uncertain about a return to Jefferson City after all state offices were closed this week. (Kansas City Star)

Elanco remains committed to $7.6 billion Bayer deal
The Indiana-based pet care company withdrew its earlier earnings guidance for 2020 this week, while reaffirming its excitement to buy Bayer’s animal health unit, which employs about 550 in the Kansas City area. (Kansas City Business Journal)

St. Louis County freezes raises, spending
County Executive Sam Page has directed all departments to halt all spending that is not critical to the COVID-19 response, including new hires and building projects. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Examinetics names new leader, plans 500 new hires for COVID-19 response
The Overland Park, Kansas-based health services provider has named interim CEO Paul Fenaroli to take over permanently. The company also plans to hire as many as 500 new employees nationwide to help meet demand for its screening and surveillance services amid the escalating pandemic. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Developer moves forward with Clayton office tower
Clayton lawmakers on Tuesday gave final approval for Forsyth Point, a two-tower development with about 500,000 square feet of office space. The developer, US Capital Development, hopes to complete construction by the end of 2021. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

CoxHealth prepares new facility for COVID-19 patients
The Springfield health care system is converting a floor of one of its medical centers into a “ward-style” hospital dedicated to treating patients with COVID-19. It’s projected to boost the number of intensive care unit beds by 51. (Springfield News-Leader)

U.S. Gymnastics postpones Olympic trials in St. Louis
Top U.S. sports officials have postponed qualifying trials after the 2020 Tokyo Games were pushed back a year, including gymnastics trials scheduled for late June in St. Louis. (Reuters)

St. Louis grocers give pandemic bonuses
Schnucks and Dierbergs are doling out pay bonuses of up to $500 to employees who are working amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (St. Louis Business Journal)

St. Louis airport cabbies seek fees waived amid dwindling air travel
Taxi companies are calling on St. Louis Lambert International Airport to temporarily waive the $246 monthly permit fee for cab drivers picking up passengers at the airport, citing a “dire” financial situation. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Funeral homes adapt amid social distancing
With public orders limiting public gatherings to 10 or fewer people, funeral homes are offering small graveside services and livestreams instead of traditional funeral services. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Springfield steel firm remains open
Mueller Co., which makes stainless steel industrial equipment, has been classified a critical manufacturer and will remain open during the pandemic. Employees are allowed to request leave, during which they will maintain their health insurance and company position, and receive pay assistance from the company. (Springfield Business Journal)

Drury relaxes admission rules
Drury University officials announced this week that students will be admitted to Springfield school without taking standardized tests like the ACT or SAT, as schools cancel or postpone the proctoring of such exams. Students will be assessed based on their academic record and will be asked to submit an additional essay. (Springfield Business Journal)

Manufacturer with KC ties builds mobile medical units
Excellerate Manufacturing, a Wisconsin-based firm that has been expanding in Olathe, Kansas, has begun building customizable mobile medical units that can accommodate as many as 48 patients. The units can be used as triage and exam rooms, labs, pharmacies, radiology and administrative space. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Venture Café gets fundraising boost from local foundation, businesses
After it requested $250,000 in donations to stay in business, Venture Café St. Louis has scored funding from an undisclosed private foundation and local businesses. The nonprofit provides programming and networking for entrepreneurs, including weekly events in the Cortex district. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Say that again

“Across the board, there’s a sense of urgency. Critical hires are still going to happen. And in times like this, they need to happen more than ever, and sooner.”

That’s Steve Elias, managing partner at executive search firm DHR International, explaining why some St. Louis firms are rushing to make new hires as the coronavirus pandemic is triggering widespread layoffs, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. Fewer job interviews are taking place, Elias said, but firms that are hiring are doing so on an accelerated timeline to fill positions as quickly as possible. And the form of the interview has largely shifted from in-person to online. Elias said his firm has started staging interviews through online video platforms, and local IT and health care recruiting companies say the same

Go figure

$150 million

That’s how much of its own stock Kansas City-based EPR Properties plans to buy back, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. EPR’s move comes amid a torrent of uncertainties due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Shares of the Kansas City-based real estate investment trust dropped 75% between Feb. 21 and March 23. EPR specializes in entertainment properties like movie theaters and amusement parks, which have mostly been shuttered during the pandemic. Still, company officials expressed confidence in EPR’s portfolio and strategy over the long term. On Tuesday, the company said it had $1.25 billion in cash, including a “precautionary” $750 million line of credit.

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While resisting the Missouri State Medical Association’s request that he institute a stay-at-home order, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson asked the White House for federal disaster relief money Wednesday. In a statement, the governor said it’s “already clear the COVID-19 pandemic will have a more sweeping impact on the entire state of Missouri than any other previous disaster that has affected our citizens.” All 10 members of Missouri’s congressional delegation signed a letter supporting the request. The money would be spent on hospitals, small businesses and schools, Parson said.

Hello, my name is

Clever Real Estate

The St. Louis-based real estate startup had to lay off part of its staff due to the global pandemic, with expectations of an overall slowdown in the real estate market for the foreseeable future, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. The firm’s software product, which matches real estate agents with people who want to sell their homes, is backed by large local investors like Cultivation Capital. CEO Ben Mizes said the main rule for the current crisis is simply to survive it and prepare for “whatever the world throws at us.”

It’s been a pleasure doing business with you this morning.


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