Good morning, MBA readers,
City, county and state budgets are going to get hit hard — and in different waves — by the COVID-19 pandemic. While public agencies are issuing disaster relief and fulfilling unemployment claims, they are pushing funding from already-tight budgets into prevention and containment of the virus. The Jackson County Legislature approved a $4.5 million coronavirus aid package Monday to help local hospitals pay for testing and other costs related to treatment of the virus. Jackson County officials also recommended capping the assessed tax values on real estate during the 2021 reassessment cycle — a move that would take a bite out of future revenues. Meanwhile, casinos, which help fund public schools in the state, were ordered to remain closed for another week. Their closure may be felt most acutely in smaller towns like Boonville, home of the Isle of Capri, where about 17% of the municipal budget relied on gaming revenues last year.
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A week into shutdown, KC cites 200 businesses for not closing
Kansas City has issued citations for 200 local businesses that have stayed open despite Mayor Quinton Lucas’ order last week for non-essential businesses to close. So far, Lucas estimates about 90% of residents and businesses are complying with the order. (Kansas City Star)
Clothing retailers to furlough majority of workers
Macy’s, Kohl’s and Gap, which collectively have dozens of stores across Missouri, are putting hundreds of thousands of workers nationwide on unpaid furloughs. (Associated Press)
Missouri extends casino closures another week
The Missouri Gaming Commission on Monday extended the closure of the state’s 13 casinos through April 6. (MBA)
La-Z-Boy shutters Missouri factory
The Michigan-based furniture chain is closing all of its U.S. manufacturing plants, including a factory that employs around 800 people in southwest Missouri. (Springfield News-Leader)
Spartan Light Metal Products temporarily lays off 650
The St. Louis-based metalworks firm is temporarily laying off more than 650 workers, citing “abrupt, sharp decline in orders” from customers including automakers. The layoffs will affect 72 employees in Hannibal and 332 in Mexico, Missouri. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Arch Grants launches new fund supporting startups amid pandemic
The St. Louis nonprofit is reallocating part of its funds to create the Arch Grants Relief Fund, which will provide non-dilutive grants to startups in its portfolio that need capital. The funding will be made available to about 75 past Arch Grants winners still located in St. Louis. (St. Louis Business Journal)
State health chief bans gambling machines over coronavirus fears
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has temporarily banned the operation of digital slot machines at gas stations and other businesses amid the coronavirus outbreak, reversing the department’s earlier stance. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Jackson County appropriates $4.5 million for hospitals, recommends property tax freeze
The Jackson County Legislature on Monday appropriated $4.5 million to address health care needs related to the coronavirus. It also recommended capping property taxes at 2019 levels for the 2021 reassessment cycle — although the county lacks the power to do that on its own. (Kansas City Star)
Kraft reopens Springfield plant after employees contract COVID-19
Kraft Heinz has reopened its Springfield plant, which closed Saturday morning for a “deep cleaning” after two local employees tested positive for COVID-19. The affected workers are in self-quarantine. (Springfield Business Journal)
KC area’s largest retailer to keep local distribution center open
Nebraska Furniture Mart closed its 550,000-square-foot showroom in the Kansas City area last week, but the furniture retailer plans to keep open its warehouse, which employs about 400 people. (KCUR)
KC hotel temporarily shutters
Louisville-based 21c Museum Hotel has temporarily closed all nine of its properties nationwide, including a 120-room boutique hotel and gallery that opened in Kansas City in 2018. The closing follows layoffs at other local hotels. (Kansas City Business Journal)
Uniform maker announces layoffs, partial closure in St. Louis
Alsco Linen and Uniform Rental Services has partially closed its St. Louis Branch and will conduct layoffs in a move that will impact up to 39 employees. The company cited a downturn in the restaurant business, its biggest customer base. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Bass Pro Shops ordered to shut down in Independence
The Jackson County Health Department said Monday it has issued a letter of non-compliance to Bass Pro Shops, ordering the company to close its Independence store due to the coronavirus. (Kansas City Star)
Mycroft AI files counter-motion in patent troll case
The Kansas City startup, which makes voice assistant software has filed a motion to dismiss a patent infringement suit filed by Texas-based Voice Tech Corp., claiming the case is too vague in its accusation. (Kansas City Business Journal)
Say that again
“Do I go out and get a job at a grocery store, which I know will be hiring, and then potentially come back and spread it to them? I don’t want to rely on unemployment, but I also don’t want to be spreading this to the people in my family who do have diseases that could seriously affect them.”
That’s Jordan Fowler, a University of Missouri-Kansas City student who was laid off from his barista job due to COVID-19, The Kansas City Star reports. Fowler’s questions are shared by a wide spectrum of laid-off workers across the state. When the majority of places hiring — like grocery stores and health care facilities — put workers at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus than if they just stayed home, jobless Missouri residents are being forced to make difficult decisions to support themselves and their families. While the recently passed $2 trillion federal stimulus package will provide some cushioning for unemployed workers, it could take weeks to arrive in people’s bank accounts, past the date April rent is due for many.
That’s how much traffic on Missouri roads was down from normal on March 24, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. A day later, traffic was down 26%. A Missouri Department of Transportation official said those decreases suggest people are heeding warnings to stay home in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. Some of MoDOT’s numbers indicate a decrease in general business activity: Commercial vehicle traffic was down 14% in the St. Louis area on March 25, which suggests fewer delivery shipments were made.
Hello, my name is
IgnitedX COVID-19 Response Accelerator
That’s Kansas City’s newest startup accelerator, from Black & Veatch and LaunchKC. The program will commit at least $250,000 of grants or in-kind services to ventures dealing with testing and screening technologies, new disinfection technologies, disease-tracking software and emergency medical facilities to help aid relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Kansas City Business Journal. It will also look into solutions to other problems presented by the pandemic, like providing Wi-Fi hotspots in poor communities.
It’s been a pleasure doing business with you this morning.