Missouri Minute: Treasury has hardly lent any pandemic relief funds; Missouri sees biggest declines in new coronavirus cases

Good morning, MBA readers,

Thousands of workers returned to assembly lines Monday in Missouri as the big U.S. automakers reopened facilities across the state and the country in an effort to rev their dormant industry to life. After two months off due to the coronavirus pandemic, workers returned to factories with new health and safety measures in place, including a special arrangement for COVID-19 testing between Ford and a hospital in the Kansas City area. Reopening is also bringing adjustments for the restaurant industry. Establishments like St. Louis-based Mission Taco Joint — a restaurant and bar chain shifting to a fast-casual approach — are rethinking the way they operate due to the pandemic. And, in the midst of coronavirus-induced difficulties, a couple of Missouri’s biggest companies have milestones to celebrate, with one company making its Fortune 500 debut and another ascending to the top 50 of the annual list.


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$500 billion Treasury fund has hardly lent any pandemic relief funds, report finds
A new congressional report finds that a $500 billion Treasury Department lending program created by the Cares Act in March has lent almost none of the money so far. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell are expected to testify Tuesday on the law’s economic impact before the Senate Banking Committee. (Washington Post)

Missouri sees biggest declines in new coronavirus cases
As the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. reached 1.5 million on Monday, Missouri saw some of the biggest declines in new cases from the previous week, reporting fewer than 200 new cases. While the state reported an increase of about 6,900 tests in the last 24 hours, the rate of people testing positive for the virus dropped to 7.55%, down from 10% in April. (Reuters, KSDK)

KC, St. Louis auto plants reopen
General Motors and Ford resumed production at their plants in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas after shutting down for two months due to the pandemic. In the Kansas City area, Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant employs 6,900 people, while GM’s Fairfax Assembly Plant has nearly 2,200 employees. More than 4,000 people work at GM’s Wentzville Assembly in the St. Louis area. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Counties mull how to distribute pandemic relief
After receiving nearly $521 million in combined pandemic relief funds, Missouri’s county governments are weighing options for best distributing the money. In Springfield, Greene County officials are considering a proposal to distribute the county’s $34.4 million through grants, and they plan to hire a manager to oversee the process. (Springfield Business Journal)

Utilities regulators weigh handling of past-due payments
The Missouri Public Service Commission has opened a case considering how the state’s utilities should collect late payments from customers amid the COVID-19 crisis. The move comes as utilities grapple with recovering unpaid utility bills once the pandemic has passed. (Jefferson City News Tribune)

Lucas appeals to Jackson County for KC’s share of federal pandemic aid
Jackson County has received nearly $123 million in federal relief funds while Kansas City received zero. Now, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas is asking county officials to provide the city with $54.5 million — an amount based on 44.5% of Jackson County residents living in Kansas City. (KCUR)

St. Louis County extends deadline for small business relief fund
County Executive Sam Page has extended the deadline for local business relief funding by two weeks, until May 31. Local businesses with 50 or fewer workers, sole proprietorships and nonprofits are eligible for grants of up to $15,000. The program will award a total of $17.5 million across the region. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Ford contracts area hospital to speed up COVID-19 testing in KC area
The automaker has contracted Liberty Hospital to ramp up COVID-19 testing of employees as Ford reopens its plant in the Kansas City area. Employees showing symptoms associated with the virus will get a prescription from a company doctor to be tested at a drive-through site, with the hopes of getting results back within 24 hours. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Uber to slash 23% of workforce, focus on ‘core projects’
The ride-hailing company will cut a total of 6,700 jobs and reduce investments in “non-core projects” as it attempts to churn a profit during the pandemic. While typical ride-hailing revenue plummeted 80% last month, Uber’s CEO cited the company’s food delivery business as the “next enormous growth opportunity.” (Reuters)

Ballparks of America taps former MLB pro, local lawmaker as GM
Scott Bailes, a former professional baseball player and former Springfield city councilman, has been named general manager of the Branson sports complex, which sold to new ownership earlier this year. (Springfield Business Journal)

Mission Taco pivots to ‘lite’ casual dining service
The seven-location restaurant chain has temporarily renamed itself Mission Taco Lite as it pivots its business model to a fast-casual one. Once known for its happy hours, the St. Louis-based restaurant will limit indoor seating and close bar seating to ensure social distancing among dine-in patrons. (St. Louis Business Journal)


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That’s Cerner, the North Kansas City-based health care information technology company, on making the Fortune 500 list for the first time in its history. The company, ranked No. 498, was one of 10 Missouri-based companies to make the list of largest U.S. companies by revenue. It was Missouri’s only newcomer to the list this year. Centene, the Clayton-based managed care provider, led the contingent of Missouri companies, ranking 42nd overall.


Say that again

“With curbside to-go, even our best place is operating down 65% from last year, and that’s our most successful to-go operation.”

That’s Gerard Craft, owner and executive chef of Niche Food Group in St. Louis, on the toll the pandemic has taken on his business, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Niche operates seven restaurants, including Brasserie by Niche and Taste by Niche, and has lost around $2 million sales so far this year, Craft said, with to-go operations doing little to stop the losses.


Go figure

31%

That’s the share of U.S. small businesses that have stopped operating, according to an April survey of small businesses conducted by Facebook and the Small Business Roundtable. Another 11% of small businesses said they would fail in 90 days if current conditions persisted due to COVID-19, Bloomberg reports. Facebook and the Small Business Roundtable planned the survey before the coronavirus, expecting to show how small businesses contribute to the economy. Instead, the survey found the businesses devastated by COVID-19.


Hello, my name is

Katie Collier

This St. Louis entrepreneur has turned a pandemic survival plan into a national expansion idea, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. In March, Collier started shipping frozen, wood-fired pizzas via FedEx. Since then, she has shipped over 40,000 pizzas nationally. The idea has helped keep her restaurants, Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria, from having to close.


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


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