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story.lead_photo.caption Missouri Department of Economic Development Director Rob Dixon speaks during a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, May 12, 2020, as Gov. Mike Parson looks on. Photo by Courtesy of Missouri Governor's Office
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A little more than two months ago, Missouri was enjoying economic prosperity it may not have seen before, Gov. Mike Parson said Tuesday.

For now, those days are gone.

"The economy was going, and we were doing a lot of things in this state where it comes to jobs and infrastructure. Here we are today," Parson said. "But I'm confident those days will be back. Those days will be back because of what we're doing in this state."

Parson and Rob Dixon, director of the state Department of Economic Development, outlined during Tuesday's COVID-19 briefing steps Missouri is taking to get the economy back on its feet.

Like the rest of the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected not only Missouri's health but its economy, Parson said.

Through May 1, 78,733 Missouri businesses are receiving $9.24 billion in paycheck protection assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Federal stimulus funds are being used to help businesses with training and workforce needs, Parson said, as those businesses modify operations and make other accommodations necessary because of the pandemic.

The Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development is launching the "RecoverMO" campaign May 18.

Within that campaign, Missouri job centers are to shift from helping the Department of Labor with unemployment claims to helping Missourians "skill up" and get back to work. Many people receiving unemployment benefits will qualify for training programs, Parson said.

Higher education institutions will focus on short-term training programs that will allow Missourians to quickly earn certificates highlighting industry credentials.

"We will host virtual job fairs, help Missourians update their resumes — but, most importantly, find meaningful employment," Parson said. "RecoverMO will also include a regional approach to safely reopen job centers to staff and the public."

The U.S. Department of Labor notified Missouri's Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development on May 11 that it will receive an emergency $1.3 million grant from COVID-19 Disaster Recovery. The grant is to be used to relocate workers throughout the state. Local workforce development boards will use it for their local responses. It will create temporary employment opportunities in humanitarian work, such as health care, contact tracing and other work directly supporting the COVID-19 response.

Unlike almost every other economic challenge the United States has faced, the pandemic was not caused by failures of financial systems, bursting bubbles or other economic conditions, Dixon said.

"It was the public health threat itself that brought our thriving economy to a standstill," Dixon said. "We know that our way forward in terms of public health and in terms of economic recovery are linked together."

The national unemployment rate, with nearly 22 million Americans out of work because of the pandemic, has rocketed to about 15 percent, Dixon said.

Missouri numbers aren't out yet, but Dixon anticipates they will reflect the national numbers.

Some industries, such as retailers, restaurants and manufacturers, have been struck particularly hard by the pandemic, he continued.

"But no community in Missouri has been unaffected by the economic impact of this," Dixon said.

The governor's recovery plan provides a path forward to safely and responsibly engage in economic and social activity in our state, he continued.

"The virus is not going away anytime soon," he said. "We're going to have to learn how to safely and responsibly conduct business in this era of the new normal that we're facing."

Businesses, employees and customers must continue to practice proven mitigation techniques like social distancing, modifying workspaces, shifting work schedules, sanitizing surfaces and more so the state will be able to expand economic activity, Dixon said.

State agencies are working together to develop and implement economic initiatives, he said.

"This is not a short-term recovery effort, and it will always be connected with our ability to deal with the virus," Dixon said. "In the next phase, we're going to continue to drive forward by increasing the resiliency of our state."

The state will continue doing business even before a vaccine is ultimately developed, he said.

"We'll be looking at plans and policies that can be carried out both in the private sector and in government," Dixon said. "We'll be looking at opportunities for nonprofit organizations, philanthropic efforts — and will continue working with our local government partners."

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