Missouri Minute: COVID-19 cases rise in rural areas; T-Mobile to lay off former Sprint sales employees 

Good morning, MBA readers,

As COVID-19 cases in Missouri continue to climb, eclipsing 16,400 as of Tuesday, questions about workplace safety persist. But, after relaxing some requirements for unemployment benefits over the last couple months in response to coronavirus-related layoffs, the Missouri Department of Labor said it will revert to stricter standards starting next month. The state will require people who have filed jobless claims to document their efforts to find work. Additionally, employers will resume facing fees for unemployment claims by their workers, and they are encouraged to report employees who refuse to return to work. These changes come as initial weekly unemployment claims decrease but major employers in the state continue to announce rounds of layoffs. Most recently, Kansas City’s biggest hotel announced nearly 300 layoffs, adding to a mounting total of job cuts in the hospitality industry, and T-Mobile revealed plans to lay off hundreds of former Sprint employees.

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COVID-19 cases rise in rural Missouri
About 30% of new coronavirus cases are coming from rural areas in Missouri, which is the largest proportion since the start of the pandemic. In many cases, this is tied to large outbreaks within an institution, such as a meatpacking plant or nursing home. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

T-Mobile to lay off former Sprint sales employees 
According to leaked audio of T-Mobile Vice President James Kirby, the telecom company will lay off hundreds of Sprint sales employees. This follows the acquisition of Leawood, Kansas-based Sprint, the No. 4 wireless carrier, by T-Mobile, the No. 3 carrier. (TechCrunch)

Kansas City’s biggest hotel lays off 280
The Kansas City Marriott Downtown will lay off 280 employees, according to a filing with the state. This comes after other layoffs in Kansas City by Marriott Corp. and numerous layoffs by hotel operators large and small across the state. (KCUR)

State health department has new guidelines for nursing home visits
Long-term care facilities will have more flexibility to arrange outdoor visits and visits through open windows. State guidance also will allow for communal dining or group activities for residents who can’t leave their rooms. (Missourinet)

$5 million initiative to help small Missouri cities put on hold
A plan to offer low-interest loans to cash-strapped cities with fewer than 25,000 residents was put on hold over questions about how it would run. Members of the Missouri Development Finance Board questioned whether it would be enough money to help. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Springfield explores plan for police body cameras
City Manager Jason Gage said that a proposal could have police officers wearing body cameras in as little as three months, at a cost of about $612,000 for the first year. This comes after several city council members expressed a desire for the equipment in the wake of unrest over the death of George Floyd. (Springfield News-Leader)

State Supreme Court denies neighbors’ effort to block pig farm
Residents close to a planned 6,000-pig feeding operation in Trenton have fought construction since 2015 over concerns that the operation will pollute the area’s air and water. In 2017, a law passed allowing the governor to appoint more farm-friendly individuals to the Clean Water Commission. A Trenton group challenged that law, but the court upheld its constitutionality. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

KC has yet to pay out nearly half of coronavirus business relief 
The city launched a program to help small businesses nearly six weeks ago and has given out a total of $271,000 to 19 businesses. The Economic Development Corp. of Kansas City has received 105 applications for the loans, and 58 are up for approval once they submit all the necessary documents. (Kansas City Star)

Springfield City Council approves $4.8 million deal to attract Costco 
The deal was unanimously approved and requires the city to reimburse Costco for public infrastructure improvements made in the area. The wholesale club’s plans to build in the city were dependent on the infrastructure deal. (Springfield Business Journal)

Say that again

“The Department of Labor should not be making it harder for people to get the help they need during a crisis that is far from over.”

That’s Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, arguing against the department’s decision to once again require jobless workers who have filed for unemployment to begin searching for jobs, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Starting next month, unemployed Missourians will be expected to document three “work-search activities” each week to be eligible for benefits. That’s one of several changes the department announced that reverse policies introduced in March in response to coronavirus layoffs. The state also will re-impose a one-week waiting period before jobless workers can receive aid, and it will start charging employers for unemployment claims again after temporarily suspending those charges. To avoid the charges, companies are encouraged to report employees who refuse to come back to work. The state announced these changes while the latest unemployment numbers showed 230,000 people continuing to claim weekly benefits. Initial unemployment claims have trended downward since early April, but the weekly total remains many times larger than typical pre-pandemic levels.

Go figure

$1.1 billion 

That’s how much revenue restaurants in Missouri lost in the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. Based on a survey of 3,800 restaurants nationwide conducted by the National Restaurant Association, it’s estimated that the restaurant industry lost $120 billion in the first three months of the pandemic. While some restaurants have resumed dine-in service, a vast majority of the survey respondents said profitability for their restaurants is unlikely within the next six months. By mid-May, 3% of the nation’s restaurants had closed permanently, the association said.

Hello, my name is

All Things Black Springfield MO

That’s the name of a website that lists black-owned businesses and community resources in Springfield, the Springfield News-Leader reports. Software developer Duan Gavel and his wife, Michelle, created the website based on their experiences moving to Springfield to attend Missouri State University. The site serves as a guide for people who come to Springfield from other cities and want to support black-owned businesses. Gavel said he hopes it will encourage people to stay in Springfield, like he and his wife have.

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


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