Missouri Minute: SBA relief program runs out of funds; Parson extends statewide lockdown

Good morning, MBA readers,

A rite of spring Saturdays and Sundays across the state will continue this year — but with more space and new precautions.

Many Missouri farmers markets are operating during the COVID-19 pandemic but are implementing social distancing measures and other policies designed to protect customers and vendors.

The value of food sold directly to consumers in Missouri — which includes sales by farmers markets — totaled more than $30 million in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Beyond helping Missouri farmers generate millions of dollars in annual revenue, research suggests, the markets support neighborhood revitalization, foster the development of small businesses and provide a local supply chain.

As they have worked to keep farmers markets open, local organizers have issued safety guidelines, such as ensuring vendors practice social distancing and reminding customers to stand six feet apart. Some have transitioned to online ordering. Others are offering drive-thru pickups.

“People still have to eat,” said Matthew Van Schyndel manager of the Mexico Farmers Market. “We want to show we provide a quality product, locally grown, to the consumer.”


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Stay alert

SBA’s $349 billion relief program runs out
The Small Business Administration said Thursday the Paycheck Protection Program has run out of money, and that it is “unable to accept new applications” for federal coronavirus relief loans. Members of Congress are in talks to allocate additional funding for the loans. (CNBC)

Governor extends statewide lockdown
Gov. Mike Parson announced Thursday that the statewide stay-at-home order has been extended through at least May 3. The state reported 216 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the tally of known cases to at least 5,111 and death toll to 152. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Parson said to decline coordination with other Midwestern governors
Governors of seven Midwestern states have partnered to coordinate efforts restarting their state economies. A person familiar with those efforts said Missouri’s governor declined to join the partnership. (Reuters)

AMC’s largest shareholder dispels bankruptcy rumor
Dalian Wanda Group, the largest shareholder of AMC Theatres, has issued a statement dismissing reports that the theater giant was in talks with bankruptcy lawyers. The statement fueled an alternative theory that Wanda may step in to rescue AMC. (Hollywood Reporter)

Dozens complain of unsafe conditions at Missouri meat processing plant
At least 70 workers at the Smithfield Foods meat processing plant in Milan have signed a letter to management alleging unsafe working conditions. The pork processor closed another plant near Kansas City this week after several workers at a slaughterhouse supplying the facility tested positive for COVID-19. (Columbia Missourian)

Centene CEO joins White House task force on coronavirus economic response
Michael Neidorff, chairman, president and CEO of Clayton-based managed care provider Centene, has been added to a new White House task force that will advise the Trump administration on reopening sectors of the economy. (St. Louis Business Journal)

St. Louis Metro shuffles bus routes to encourage social distancing
Metro Transit has suspended some unpopular bus routes while increasing the number of buses on more popular routes to reduce crowding. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

St. Louis credit unions flooded with federal relief requests
The three largest credit unions in St. Louis had collectively received more than 1,000 applications totaling tens of millions of dollars in federal paycheck protection loans as of Thursday. (St. Louis Business Journal)

By raising levees, St. Charles hopes to spur development
Officials plan to substantially raise two levees to guard against floods that have about a 5% chance of occurring in any given year, potentially reducing flood insurance costs for local property owners. They hope those reduced costs will help parts of St. Charles that have struggled to attract development. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Spirit ordered to resume certain flights, including KC route
The U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday ordered Spirit Airlines to resume flights to about a dozen locations, including Kansas City, within a week of receiving government assistance. Spirit had previously asked to halt more flights since passenger traffic is down 95% due to the coronavirus. (Reuters)

Mariner Wealth Advisors to service independent advisers
The Overland Park, Kansas-based firm has launched a new business called Mariner Platform Solutions to provide back-office help to independent advisers. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Gold’s Gym exits St. Louis market
The Dallas-based gym franchise has permanently closed all 10 locations in the St. Louis metro area as part of a nationwide closure of about 30 gyms. Some of the locations were already on the chopping block before the pandemic, which accelerated their closure. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Health care ministry sold bogus products to Missourians, lawsuit claims
A class-action lawsuit against health insurer Aliera and health care sharing ministry Trinity Healthshare claims the companies sold unfair and deceptive health plans to Missourians. The two companies were barred from doing business in California last month and are facing investigations into their marketing tactics in at least half a dozen states. (KCUR)

Bartenders, baristas make up lost wages cleaning KC parks
Some displaced service industry workers in Kansas City are now earning up to $15 an hour cleaning up trash in local parks. (KCUR)


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The Columbia Farmers Market is among many across the state that are adding new safety measures but staying open in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a move that Missouri agriculture officials say is important to the state’s farmers and ranchers.


Say that again

“At this point it’s looking very unlikely that most restaurants across the country will be open in two months. And restaurants can’t operate at 50, 60 or 70% of their former customer count and make money.”

That’s Webster Groves restaurant owner Mark Hinkle, who said he will likely have to lay off his 110 employees again in two months even with $450,000 in federal disaster loans, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The Paycheck Protection Program offers borrowers loan forgiveness if they return to February payroll levels within eight weeks. But Hinkle and other business owners fear that economic hardships may keep consumers home, making it difficult to hire back all their workers by mid-June. Qui Tran, whose restaurants in the St. Louis area are now making roughly 20% of their former sales, said the program is “basically predatory lending by the government.” The Independent Restaurant Coalition is calling on Congress to give restaurants more time to bring back their workers as the economy recovers from the pandemic.


Go figure

9 in 10

That’s the portion of rural Midwest bankers who said in a recent survey that they expect the ongoing economic shutdown will lead to a recession, the Associated Press reports. The survey is part of Creighton University’s index of rural bankers’ outlook on the economy, which covers 10 states including Missouri. The overall regional index plummeted to 12.1 in April, the lowest index recorded since the survey began in 2006. Any score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy. About 94% of the bankers surveyed this month saw a drop in customer visits in recent weeks, and nearly one-third said their bank saw higher loan delinquency rates due to the pandemic.


Hello, my name is

MedZone

This Kansas City-area sports medicine company is pivoting toward a line of sanitizing products in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. Based in Lenexa, Kansas, MedZone is generally known for products that help with pain relief, skin chafing and blisters. Now, it is making hand sanitizing gel, sanitizing spray and foaming sanitizers that are sold on its website and via major retailers.


It’s been a pleasure doing business with you this morning. Have a safe and restful weekend.


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