Missouri Minute: Mercy Health to furlough thousands; state lawmakers anticipate ‘uneventful’ session end

Good morning, MBA readers,

There’s been much debate — and even a lawsuit — about when Missouri’s two largest cities should allow nonessential businesses to reopen. For now, stay-at-home policies in each city remain on their respective courses, with a federal judge upholding the shutdown in St. Louis and Kansas City officials deciding not to further delay their planned reopening. With Kansas City set to relax restrictions on Friday and St. Louis slated to begin its gradual reopening next Monday, officials in each city can anticipate a busy week ahead. The same cannot be said of legislators in Jefferson City. Missouri lawmakers are keen on having an “uneventful” conclusion to their 2020 session, which ends Friday. The legislative session’s final week is typically a time for addressing high-profile bills, but leaders in the House and Senate have suggested that will not be the case this year. That means some key issues, like sports gambling and online sales tax, could be put off until next year.


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Parson looks to boost production of medical supplies amid shortage
Gov. Mike Parson has expressed a desire to build up a 30-to-60-day stockpile of personal protective equipment, potentially spurring new manufacturing activity in Missouri. His statement mirrors those of at least three other Republican governors, emphasizing a need to be less “dependent” on overseas production during a crisis. (Associated Press)

State lawmakers expect session to end quietly, saving some bigger bills for next year
Missouri lawmakers are hoping for an “uneventful” last week of the 2020 legislative session. That means many major economic issues, from online sales tax to sports gambling, may not get any legislative attention until next year. (St. Louis Public Radio)

KC won’t further delay reopening after all
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said that local businesses will reopen this Friday as planned. On Thursday, Lucas had said he would review reopening plans after an outbreak at a local senior center. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Mercy Health to furlough thousands
The Chesterfield-based hospital system said Friday that it will furlough “thousands” of workers and cut jobs as hospitals of all sizes feel the financial crunch of the coronavirus. The furloughs will begin next week and last through the end of July as needed, affecting all levels and departments. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

New PPP loans could be ‘lifeline’ to endangered hospitals
The Small Business Administration has released new guidance allowing hospitals to qualify for Paycheck Protection Program loans. Many hospitals around the country, especially small, rural facilities, have struggled under the weight of the pandemic, which has forced hospitals to cancel elective procedures while increasing spending on protective gear. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Federal judge rejects lawsuit challenging St. Louis shutdowns
A judge on Friday denied a lawsuit filed by two businesses seeking to block the stay-at-home orders in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County. The judge ruled that the economic concerns of the businesses do not outweigh the potential harms of lifting the shutdowns too early. (St. Louis Business Journal)

St. Louis shoppers look for local beef amid national shortages
Customers are turning to local cattle farmers to buy beef as grocery stores limit the purchase of fresh meat. One farmer in Wildwood said he is sold out of sides of beef through late September due to the nationwide shortage triggered by cases of COVID-19 at meatpacking plants. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Bamboo Equity Partners offering free rent to small businesses
The Creve Coeur-based real estate firm has partnered with furniture company Working Spaces to offer months of rent-free office space in the St. Louis area. Tenants will get free rent for the rest of the year if they sign a five-year lease — a bid for new tenants during the pandemic. (St. Louis Business Journal)

$1 million relief fund aims to help KC restaurant workers
Kemper family foundations have donated $1 million to the Missouri Restaurant Association Education Foundation to award $500 grants to workers who have been laid off, furloughed or had hours reduced at locally owned restaurants in the Kansas City area. UMB Bank is covering all administrative costs related to the new fund, so all $1 million will go to workers. (Kansas City Star)

Boulevard to release new seltzer line
The Kansas City-based brewer plans to release a new hard seltzer line called Quirk Spiked & Sparkling in June across Midwest markets. (Kansas City Business Journal)


Show me

Missouri’s busiest airport experienced the state’s largest decline in passenger traffic as the coronavirus took a toll on travel in March. Passenger volume at St. Louis Lambert International Airport was about 630,000 for the month, marking a decrease of more than 53% from March 2019.


Say that again

“I don’t give a (expletive). It is what it is. You’re either going to get it, or you’re not. You’re either going to be afraid of it, or you’re not. I’m not afraid of it. We all live. We all die. When that happens is not your choice.”

That’s Ken Hall, a business owner in the Kansas City area talking about his choice not to wear a mask in public, an issue that has the city split, The Kansas City Star reports. Hall runs an essential cleaning business and said half his customers don’t bother to use the hand sanitizer he leaves out for them. Others, like medical coder Latesia Forrester of Liberty, say the lack of masks is frustrating. “I think it’s terrible,” she said. “I mean, I’m protecting you from me. But you’re not protecting me from you.” Nearly everyone surveyed by The Star said they expect cases will spike in the next few weeks as the city reopens.


Go figure

579

That’s how many University of Missouri employees have taken furloughs over the course of the pandemic or plan to before July 31, the Columbia Missourian reports. The number was posted to a new university webpage last week, tallying for the first time the number of people who have been laid off due to the virus. Additionally, another 569 people have taken pay cuts — most around 10% — through July 31, according to the page. Another 217 took voluntary pay cuts. MU is seeing a major budget shortfall as the result of decreased state funding of around $17 million this fiscal year, along with millions of dollars in housing and dining refunds after most students moved away from campus this spring. The university will see an overall cut of around 12.5% to next fiscal year’s budget and has instituted a hiring freeze.


Hello, my name is

Silver Solution

That’s the name of the alleged coronavirus treatment that got televangelist Jim Bakker sued by Missouri’s attorney general last month for spreading false information. Now, former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is arguing Bakker had the right to peddle the false solution, according to St. Louis Public Radio. Nixon, now a partner with St. Louis law firm Dowd Bennett, is representing Bakker, arguing the state’s request for an injunction violates Bakker’s right to practice his religion — even if the solution doesn’t work. The government can’t file the order if Bakker’s “sincerely held religious belief” holds that Silver Solution was “made available to this generation by God to prepare for … end times,” Nixon wrote in a motion filed last week.


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


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