Missouri Minute: State to expand vaccine eligibility; utility regulators investigate storm response

Hello, MBA readers,

Missouri is just more than two weeks away from the next stage of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Gov. Mike Parson announced Thursday that approximately 550,000 more Missourians will be eligible for the vaccines beginning March 15. On that date, teachers and school staff, government employees, child care providers and others will be allowed to get their shots. In other news out of Jefferson City, Missouri utility regulators have launched an investigation into the preparation and response to last week’s winter storm the state’s power providers. Regulators are looking at how costs will be passed along to customers, as well as how situations similar to last week may be handled in the future. And, in St. Louis, the city government is increasing its investment in renewable energy. The mayor’s office has committed to electric vehicle readiness and purchased four vehicles for city use, with plans to expand that fleet in the future.

Now hear this

Speaking Startup: Digging into Missouri’s history of Black entrepreneurs
As Black History Month draws to a close, this week’s episode of the Speaking Startup podcast explores two stories of African American entrepreneurs in Missouri. First, we look at some of Missouri’s earliest Black businesses and their legacies today. Then, we hear from Black entrepreneurs looking to change the landscape of Missouri farming through their work in urban agriculture.

Stay alert

Missouri to expand vaccine eligibility March 15
About 550,000 additional Missourians, including teachers and school staff, child care providers, government employees, food workers and employees in other critical sectors, will qualify for vaccines. (Columbia Missourian)

Jackson County removes curfew on restaurants, bars
These businesses can now stay open past 12:30 a.m., but capacity restrictions remain at 50%. (Kansas City Star)

Missouri Public Service Commission investigates storm response
The commission is looking into how the state’s power companies prepared for extreme winter weather last week, and how electrical and natural gas utilities can improve their responses to such conditions. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

City of St. Louis buys four electric vehicles, plans for more
Mayor Lyda Krewson’s office said the city plans to buy eight vehicles and 10 charging stations in the coming months. (St. Louis Business Journal)

MidwayUSA founder steps down from CEO role
Larry Potterfield will remain chairman of the board for the Columbia-based retailer of shooting, hunting and outdoor sports products. Midway executive Matt Fleming will take over as CEO. (Columbia Missourian)

St. Louis startup Capacity expands engineering, AI team by 60%
The company, which makes automated “help desk” technology, now has more than 80 employees. The hiring comes after Capacity raised $11 million in Series C financing. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Benson Hill to build new crop facility
The nearly 50,000-square-foot agriculture research facility in Creve Coeur will allow the company to test more nutrient-dense soybeans and yellow pea plants faster. Benson Hill also plans to hire about 50 new employees. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Mark Twain Tower renovation timeline extended
The downtown Kansas City redevelopment project, being led by Washington-based developer The Bernstein Cos., is expected to take about 18 months longer than originally planned. Completion is slated for October 2022. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Urban Neighborhood Initiative CEO Cleaver to retire
Dianne Cleaver said she will retire at year’s end. She has led the organization, which works to revitalize neighborhoods in Kansas City’s urban core, since its founding in 2012. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Go figure


Initial unemployment claims in Missouri surged above 19,000 for the week ended Feb. 20, their highest level in nearly nine months. It marked the fourth consecutive week of increasing claims and the ninth week in a row in which claims exceeded 10,000. As Missouri continues to face the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, weekly unemployment numbers persistently exceed long-term historical averages.

Say that again

“We’re going full in on the appeals because we can’t take a wait-and-see approach. Because if things go badly, and our clients haven’t done what they need to do, they’re going to be out of options.”

That’s Jim Guest, director of the Volunteer Lawyers Program at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, speaking about efforts to file appeals for workers being asked to repay excessive unemployment benefits, St. Louis Public Radio reports. State officials estimate Missouri overpaid benefits by about $150 million last year. Missouri is one of 10 states in which state laws prohibit the forgiveness of unemployment overpayments. However, there is an effort underway in the state legislature to allow for forgiveness of all unemployment overpayments not received through fraudulent means.

Hello, my name is

Aya Coffee + Books

This pop-up coffee shop and bookstore in Kansas City has a focus on inclusivity and highlighting the Black role in the coffee industry, Startland News reports. Founded last April, the company started as an online bookstore, but it started hosting pop-up shops this month for Black History Month. Founder Jahna Riley hopes to secure a physical storefront by the end of 2021, and she plans to source her coffee beans from Black farmers and roasters across the U.S.


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