Missouri Minute: Parson moves Medicaid expansion vote to August primary; Mercy reports more than 1,300 cuts, furloughs

Good morning, MBA readers,

Amid a wave of pandemic-driven layoff notifications that could mean multiple big employers across the state shedding at least 1,000 jobs apiece, Gov. Mike Parson made an announcement Tuesday that could affect many times more Missourians than that. The governor said he is moving up the date voters will decide whether to expand Medicaid access in Missouri. The measure will appear on the state’s August primary ballot, rather than the November ballot. Missouri is one 14 states that have resisted expanding the health care program for low-income residents under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Expansion supporters estimate the move would add 230,000 adults to Missouri’s Medicaid rolls. Parson said shifting the vote to August would give the state more time to prepare financially if the measure passes. As state officials consider that prospect, companies including casino operator Ameristar and health system Mercy are planning cuts at properties across the state as they face their own financial challenges. And St. Louis hockey fans have some cause for celebration, as the Blues were crowned champions of their division as part of a plan to bring the National Hockey League back.


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Parson moves Medicaid expansion vote to August primary
Gov. Mike Parson moved a vote over expanding access to Medicaid in Missouri from November’s general election to the August primary. Parson said the earlier vote would allow more time for budget planning if the measure passes, calling the move “policy, not politics.” (Associated Press)

Casino may lay off 1,500 workers in St. Charles, KC
Ameristar Casino, owned by Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming, notified the state that it may turn furloughs into permanent layoffs for up to 60% of its employees. The move could affect as many as 947 employees in St. Charles and 578 in Kansas City. Missouri’s casinos were forced to close in March, but some are slated to reopen next week. (St. Louis Post Dispatch)

Mercy reports more than 1,300 cuts, furloughs
According to notices filed with the state, the Chesterfield-based health system will lay off or furlough 696 employees at Mercy Hospital Springfield and another 663 at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. (Springfield Business Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Federal agency plans to lay off nearly 1,000 Kansas City workers 
The National Benefits Center has notified employees of layoffs set to take effect Friday. The agency processes paperwork U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and has offices in Lee’s Summit and Overland Park, Kansas. The move would be one of the largest mass layoffs of the year for the region. (Kansas City Star)

Amtrak prepares to lay off 20% of workers 
The railroad service, which serves 13 stations in Missouri, plans to lay off more than 18,000 employees nationwide in the next fiscal year to deal with financial struggles induced by the coronavirus. Since the pandemic began, Amtrak ridership has decreased by 95%, the company’s CEO wrote in a memo Tuesday. (Wall Street Journal)

St. Louis arts groups lost $2.5 million due to pandemic, survey finds
Fewer than half of the 79 St. Louis-area arts leaders who responded to a recent survey said they were confident their organizations would survive the economic fallout of COVID-19. More than 90% of local art groups have canceled events, leading to drops in ticket revenue and donations. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Travel advisory issued for Ozarks partygoers
After videos of crowded weekend pool parties at the Lake of the Ozarks showed people disregarding social distancing guidelines, St. Louis County issued an advisory urging partygoers to self-quarantine for 14 days. Kansas City did not issue an order, but the city’s top health official said people who did not practice social distancing at the lake should self-quarantine. (Kansas City Star)

First-quarter St. Louis housing prices were up 6.8%
Prices of houses in St. Louis were steadily rising before the pandemic, according to a report by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, up nearly 7% from the same time last year. Housing prices have risen faster in St. Louis than in the rest of the country, increasing for the last 20 quarters. (St. Louis Post Dispatch)

KC ordinances let restaurants create makeshift patios
In order to help businesses utilize space more effectively while complying with social distancing guidance, the Kansas City Council approved ordinances that allow restaurants to set up dining areas on sidewalks and parking lots. (KCUR)

Six Flags theme parks introduce reopening rules 
The amusement park chain has announced safety protocols for visitors, including the requirement that they make reservations in advance, wear face masks in the park and practice physical distancing while standing in line. A date has not been announced for the reopening of Six Flags St. Louis. (Riverfront Times)


Say that again

“It’s good. That’s money in our pocket.”

That’s Phyllis Marose, an Osage Beach alderman, talking prior to Memorial Day weekend about crowds of holiday visitors arriving in town, The Kansas City Star reports. The holiday saw travelers flock to Osage Beach and other Lake of the Ozarks communities, with some sparking controversy by ignoring social distancing guidelines at public venues. During a virtual meeting before the weekend, Osage Beach Mayor John Olivarri asked city leaders about their weekend plans, with most saying they planned to stay at home amid the holiday rush but also acknowledging the economic boost lake tourists would bring to their town.


Go figure

$992

That’s the median monthly rent in St. Louis, according to a new LinkedIn report that rates the city as the best place in the U.S. to start a career. The report ranked large cities based on the affordability of housing given median rents and median salaries for “starter jobs.” With St. Louis’ median monthly rent of $992 and median starting salary of $60,400, according to LinkedIn, rent consumes about 19.7% of gross income for recent graduates in the city. That was the lowest rate of all the cites in the study. Kansas City ranked sixth on the list, and Midwestern cities claimed the top nine spots.


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The St. Louis Blues celebrated being crowned champions of the National Hockey League’s Central Division on Tuesday, even though they haven’t played a game since March. The NHL announced that, if hockey returns, the league will bypass the remainder of its regular season and move ahead with a 24-team playoff hosted in two hub cities. Typically, the NHL has 16 teams in its postseason tournament. With the best record in the Western Conference before the league suspended play due to the coronavirus, the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues would have the top overall seed in the conference. The NHL Players Association has approved the playoff plan, but it remains unclear when — or even if — the season will resume.


Hello, my name is

Year Round Garden 

This Kansas City-area gardening and seed store has found unexpected demand for a pair of its products as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Startland News reports. The company has started selling ultraviolet C light fixtures and mylar-lined grow tents to customers to use for sanitization purposes. Year Round Garden normally markets those products to customers to help them grow plants, but the company began selling them in tandem after fielding a request from a nurse looking to sterilize her belongings when she returns home from work.


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


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