Missouri Minute: Health departments await COVID-19 funds; mortgage lender to hire 300 in St. Louis

Hello, MBA readers,

Over the weekend, St. Louis’ professional sports teams offered contrasting examples of the tricky business of resuming operations during a pandemic. The Cardinals had three games postponed and are surrounded by uncertainty after multiple positive COVID-19 tests among their traveling party. Several cancellations across Major League Baseball in the first week-plus of the sport’s return have raised questions about the viability of a season requiring teams to travel between cities. The Blues, meanwhile, played their first official game in months as the National Hockey League attempts to finish its season in two Canadian hub cities. Back in Missouri, dozens of county health departments have yet to receive relief funding. The federal government gave $2.4 billion to the state back in March, including $527 million earmarked for local local governments. But local officials have been slow to hand out that money, leaving health departments concerned about their ability to combat the coronavirus. And, with primary elections one day away, hundreds of thousands of uninsured Missourians whose worries over health and finances have been magnified by the pandemic are awaiting a decision on whether they will gain insurance coverage through Medicaid expansion.


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Now hear this

Speaking Startup: Accelerating entrepreneurs’ pandemic pivots
Across Missouri, startups have shifted their products and services in response to the the COVID-19 pandemic. Multiple businesses that have undergone such pivots participated in the Black & Veatch COVID-19 Response Accelerator, which was created to help accelerate the growth of businesses trying to address problems presented by the pandemic. On the latest Speaking Startup podcast, we caught up with a couple of Missouri-based companies that participated in the program and are looking to tackle issues that have arisen because of the coronavirus.


Stay alert

Health departments in dozens of Missouri counties awaiting COVID-19 funding
Local health departments want to ramp up testing and contact tracing. But in at least 50 counties across the state, local governments have not passed federal funds down to their health departments, according to a survey sent out in mid-July. (Kansas City Star)

Wash U announces plan to bring students back to campus
The St. Louis university will offer a hybrid system, with some classes in-person and some online. Those on campus are required to wear masks and practice social distancing, and residential housing is being evaluated to reduce capacity. (KSDK)

AmeriSave plans to hire up to 300 employees in St. Louis
The Atlanta-based mortgage lender will make the hires as part of a plan to double its workforce nationally, to more than 2,000 employees. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Cortex to hire executive for equity and inclusion
The St. Louis innovation district will hire a vice president to lead its efforts to become an inclusive, anti-racist organization. The deadline to apply is Sept. 1. (St. Louis Business Journal)

CoxHealth opens new $10 million unit
The south Springfield hospital has added a 23,300-square-foot cardiovascular unit. It comes in response to demand that a hospital representative said has grown “exponentially in recent months.” (Springfield Business Journal)


Say that again

“If I were to come down with COVID-19, to the point where I have to go on the respirator, let me go. Don’t put me on anything, because I don’t want to bankrupt my family because I got sick, and that’s exactly what would happen.”

Those are the words of Terry Knowlton, a 55-year-old Springfield resident. She falls into the Medicaid gap — that is, her income is too much to qualify for Medicaid coverage but too little to afford other medical insurance. She is one of an estimated 230,000 Missourians who would be eligible for Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people and individuals with disabilities, if voters approve Amendment 2 on Tuesday. The measure would expand Medicaid access in the state to include people making up to 138% of the federal poverty level. For uninsured Missourians like Knowlton who already worried about health and finances, the coronavirus pandemic has only elevated those concerns.


Go figure

$590,000

That is the salary of Brent Benjamin, director of the St. Louis Art Museum. He is the highest-paid public servant in St. Louis this year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The second and third spots are held by the president and CEO of the St. Louis Zoo and the deputy director of the art museum, respectively. Six of the 10 highest-paid public servants work at tax-supported cultural institutions. Many positions at these institutions are paid for by private donations and endowments, and leaders of several of these organizations have taken pay cuts during the pandemic.


Send tweet


The St. Louis Cardinals tweeted their support for the St. Louis Blues, who returned to action Sunday for the first time since March and will try to defend their Stanley Cup title in the coming weeks. The Cardinals, meanwhile, had three games postponed over the weekend after multiple players tested positive for COVID-19. Those were the latest in a string of games suspended due to the coronavirus during the first week-plus of Major League Baseball’s return to action, illustrating the challenges as professional sports leagues attempt to complete shortened seasons during the pandemic. While the Cardinals continue to test their traveling party for COVID-19, Major League Baseball is considering tightening protocols to combat the spread of the coronavirus, The Wall Street Journal reports.


Hello, my name is

EB Systems

The Kansas City-based company has pivoted its work to help address the COVID-19 pandemic. Its Beacon Reader technology, which can track devices and Bluetooth wearables, previously was used to monitor crowds at events such as the Kansas City Super Bowl parade. But now the company’s location-tracking technology is being used for contact tracing. EB Systems is one of several Missouri startups selected for the Black & Veatch Ignite X COVID-19 Response Accelerator, which is working to address problems caused by the pandemic.


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


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