Missouri Minute: KC gets $14 million to extend streetcar; Ameren faces pressure to retire coal plants

Hello, MBA readers,

With many schools across the state resuming in-person classes, the Missouri National Education Association is calling for a centralized system for tracking outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools. The teachers union has called on the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to create a system for reporting such data. Meanwhile, the death of a Missouri teacher and other fatalities of educators across the country due to COVID-19 have some questioning the safety of conducting classes in person. Another union, the American Federation of Teachers, has reported 210 coronavirus-related fatalities nationally among its members. Schools across the state are balancing concerns about the safety of teachers and students amid in-person learning with considerations about the ability to deliver education in a remote environment. Schools across the state that have started the year with virtual classes have been beset by technology issues and other challenges as they adapt to new systems.

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Kansas City gets $14.2 million to extend streetcar line north
The funds come from the U.S. Department of Transportation to spur development along the Missouri River. The grant will extend the line just over half a mile, adding one stop along the riverfront. Last month, federal funds were granted to add a southern extension to the line. (Kansas City Star)

State unemployment claims increase slightly
Weekly claims ticked up to nearly 10,900 from about 10,500 the week prior. The number of people on unemployment rolls fell by more than 14,000, to a total of about 91,000 for the week ending Aug. 29. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Advocates pressure Ameren to retire coal plants by 2030
A group that includes more than a dozen mayors from the St. Louis region wants the utility ditch the plants up to 15 years before it originally planned to. Nearly two-thirds of Ameren’s electricity comes from coal. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Teachers union seeks state database of school COVID-19 cases
In a letter to state education officials, the Missouri National Education Association called for the state to make a centralized system for the public to see information about COVID-19 exposure in K-12 schools while protecting patient privacy. (Missourinet)

Teacher deaths stoke concern about safety of in-person classes
Missouri is one of at least three states where teachers have died from COVID-19 since schools opened up, although it is unclear if they contracted the virus from in-person classes. Nationally, the American Federation of Teachers lists 210 union members who have died from the virus. (Associated Press)

State employees will get two extra months to use vacation time
State workers usually have to use their vacation days by Oct. 31, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic putting a halt on traveling, the deadline to use vacation days is now Dec. 31. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Missouri offers IT training for those who lost jobs due to COVID-19
The Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development has teamed up with Illinois-based CompTIA to provide training using federal CARES Act funds. The training will be made available to up to 1,000 Missouri residents. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Number of Missourians on food stamps increases by over 100,000
At the beginning of the year, about 658,000 Missourians were receiving assistance through food stamps. As of July, that number was about 778,000. (Missourinet)

J.C. Penney reaches agreement to sell retail business
Mall operators Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners agreed to buy the chain for about $300 million in cash and assume $500 million in debt, avoiding a liquidation that would have eliminated tens of thousands of jobs. There are 23 J.C. Penney stores in Missouri. (New York Times)

Branson extends mask order to October
The mandate was set to expire on Tuesday. The ordinance requires the use of masks in public spaces. (Springfield Business Journal)

MU professors awarded $1.9 million for neurodegenerative studies
The National Institutes of Health awarded the grant to improve the quality and lifespan of those who suffer from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and similar diseases. (Columbia Missourian)

St. Louis startup joins Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator
Applied Particle Technology is one of 11 startups that will form the accelerator’s next all-digital cohort. The startup developed a wearable exposure-monitoring system for employees working in potentially hazardous spaces. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Say that again

“The genie is out of the bottle for people. I think that we’ve touched the tip of the iceberg because now people are aware of the services that are available.”

That’s Maria Kunstader, president and co-founder of The TeleDentists, addressing the influx of new customers the startup has seen since the onset of the pandemic. The Kansas City-based company got its start by offering teledentistry services in emergency rooms, where many patients seek treatment for oral health issues despite there being no dentists to treat them. It has since expanded to offer dental consultations to patients who wish to avoid unnecessary in-person appointments. The TeleDentists is just one of many types of telehealth that have seen a surge in demand as a result of the coronavirus causing people to forgo in-person visits.

Go figure

1 million

That is how many guests AMC Entertainment has welcomed back to its U.S. theaters since reopening three weeks ago, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. Counting theaters in Europe and the Middle East — some of which have been open since June — AMC reported attendance of 4 million at its theaters since reopening. Following coronavirus-induced shutdowns, the Leawood, Kansas-based cinema chain has been able to reopen many of its theaters with new precautions, which include reduced capacity, mask requirements and heightened air filtration and sanitation methods.

Send tweet

Among the 20 names that President Donald Trump recently added to a list of potential future Supreme Court nominees, there were two from Missouri: Sen. Josh Hawley and Judge Sarah Pitlyk, the Columbia Missourian reports. Following the announcement, Hawley, a Republican in his first term, published the tweet above, suggesting he is not interested in a Supreme Court seat.

Hello, my name is

Arcadian Infracom

This St. Louis-based fiber infrastructure firm is growing closer to extending fiber network routes across the Navajo Nation reservation, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. The project is expected to begin this fall following the settlement of financial details. Founded in 2018, Arcadian provides internet service to rural and underserved areas. CEO Dan Davis said the past two and a half years were spent building trust with the reservation’s leaders before moving forward with the construction. The Navajo Nation spans parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

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


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