Kae M. Petrin | KBIA

Kae M. Petrin

Katelyn Petrin is a rising senior at Washington University. She has a special major in medical humanities with a minor in classics and writing.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury on Monday released the names of businesses that received more than $150,000 in federal loans through the Paycheck Protection Program.

For-profit construction and manufacturing companies, along with health care entities, took some of the largest multimillion-dollar loans in the St. Louis area. 

More than 90,000 Missouri businesses received federal loans to help meet payroll costs during the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses reported that the loans supported about 900,000 jobs in the state, accounting for 85% of the state’s small business payroll. 

St. Louis-area researchers and analysts for years have advocated overhauling police departments to address officer misconduct and systemic racism. 

In 2015, Forward Through Ferguson recommended dozens of reforms for region’s dozens of police departments. But a 2019 report by the nonprofit group found that major local departments had adopted few of those reforms

Advocates for gay and transgender workers are calling a U.S. Supreme Court ruling an unexpected victory. But some worry Missouri’s labor laws could make the federal ruling hard to enforce locally. 

The court’s 6-3 decision Monday concerning the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars employers from discriminating against workers who are LGBTQ. The move cements federal legal protections for an estimated 180,000 adults in Missouri. 

Updated June 17 with new statement from St. Louis County

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Tuesday night that he wants to rename county streets and attractions that contradict the county's values. He also asked county officials research statues on county property. 

Earlier on Tuesday, a crew removed a statue of Christopher Columbus from Tower Grove Park in St. Louis.

Original story from June 14:

Northwest St. Louis County residents are petitioning officials to rename a Maryland Heights thoroughfare named after a 19th-century slave trader and anti-abolitionist.

The petition to change the name of Dorsett Road, which spans nearly four miles through the St. Louis County suburb, is among calls nationwide to remove historical artifacts honoring prominent slave holders and colonialists.

Mortality rates are continuing to widen between black and white St. Louisans, according to new analysis presented to a Board of Aldermen committee Thursday.

In 2016, black St. Louisans were 34% more likely to die of any cause than white residents, the analysis found. That number increased to 47% by 2018, the most recently available data. 

Alivia Kaplan had big summer plans. She was set to fly home to Hawaii after her sophomore year at Washington University’s Olin Business School in St. Louis and get her real estate license.

But the coronavirus pandemic canceled her flight — and her summer plans.

That’s when her business and economics professor offered her a consulting job with a big goal: to help St. Louis businesses adapt to the challenges of operating during a pandemic.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson has announced a plan to distribute $64 million in federal aid intended to bolster the city’s response to the coronavirus. 

Some of the largest shares of funding will pay for housing assistance, small-business aid and protective equipment, testing supplies and cleaning services. Krewson said she hopes that the funding will ease the economic fallout for people who have been hurt most by the pandemic. 

Square has announced that some employees can work from home permanently, even after their offices reopen across the country.

The move will affect many of the mobile payments tech firm's 500 St. Louis-based employees, who normally work at the company's office in the Cortex district. Square, headquartered in San Francisco, has operated remotely since March, when state and local governments began to restrict office capacity to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

As businesses in St. Louis and St. Louis County prepare to reopen under new restrictions Monday, government officials say they expect a surge in reports of businesses failing to follow the health and safety guidelines.

Dr. Fredrick Echols, St. Louis Department of Health director, said his office is prepared to handle the influx in reports and help businesses get in line with the new requirements.

He said his office will focus on educating customers and businesses on the rules rather than strictly enforcing them. The rules include requiring employers to provide masks and limiting the number of people in enclosed spaces. Cease-and-desist letters and other formal notices would be used only if businesses refuse to comply with the orders, Echols said.

Transit riders in the St. Louis region must wear masks while on trains or buses beginning this week.

The requirement is part of Metro Transit’s plan to make it safer for drivers and riders while resuming bus and train operations suspended by the coronavirus.

That plan also calls for bus drivers to start collecting fares again in June. But the union that represents bus drivers said it may not be safe by then to have drivers exchanging money with passengers — even if everyone is wearing masks.

In March, Hannah Priest filed for unemployment for the first time in her life. The St. Louis restaurant where she worked as a server, Union Loafers, closed dine-in service because of the pandemic.

A simple mistake on her application set her back weeks. She quickly realized the error, but day after day couldn’t cut through the busy phone lines of the Missouri Department of Labor. Meanwhile, she watched the balance in her bank account dwindle.

Priest is one of the hundreds of thousands in Missouri who made unemployment insurance claims as the coronavirus outbreak drove employers to furlough and lay off workers. She’s also among many who say they’ve been frustrated navigating an overwhelmed state unemployment system.

Virginia O’Brien has a new morning routine. 

She used to wake up and check news headlines. “Now I check my little green ones. I can’t wait to see how they did overnight,” she said. 

O’Brien is among scores of St. Louisans finding peace and purpose in gardening while the pandemic sows upheaval into daily life outside their yards. 

Unemployment claims began skyrocketing in Missouri and Illinois in mid-March following orders from state and county leaders that have restricted movement and business operations, and new state data show that that trend has continued to accelerate.

Last week, about 104,000 people filed unemployment claims in Missouri and 178,000 in Illinois — a steep increase in both states from the prior week. Nationally, more than 5.8 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, the largest number on record.

Despite those dramatic jumps, economists at Washington University and the St. Louis Federal Reserve say the economy could recover swiftly after the worst of the coronavirus pandemic subsides and businesses start to reopen.

Applications for unemployment benefits are spiking in Missouri. The increase reflects a nationwide unemployment surge and comes as droves of businesses close across the state in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Last week, more than 42,000 Missourians filed for unemployment. That’s more than 10 times as many people as in the previous week. The application numbers rival those of the Great Recession in the late-2000s.

A St. Louis-area philanthropic foundation is working to give relief to many of the locally owned businesses and nonprofits financially strained by the coronavirus outbreak. 

The St. Louis Community Foundation has established two grant funds that have raised around $1.4 million combined, according to a press release from the organization. 

Explore St. Louis has launched a new online hub to help people find restaurants that are serving take-out food during the coronavirus outbreak. 

The site, Curbside STL, came online late Thursday and aims to provide a shot in the arm to St. Louis-area restaurants facing plummeting sales after Missouri and Illinois leaders ordered restaurants to shut down all dine-in services. While many restaurants are scrambling to accommodate curbside orders, others have already decided to close. 

“People just ceased going to restaurants,” said Brian Hall, chief marketing officer of Explore St. Louis. “And it’s crippling, because they’re all small businesses.” 

Updated at 10:50 p.m. March 15, with comments from school and county officials

Dozens of school districts across the St. Louis region will close this week in an extraordinary move to try to slow the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. 

Districts in St. Louis city and St. Louis, St. Charles and Jefferson counties plan to remain closed through early April and could decide to extend the break further.

The closures affect more than 40 districts in Missouri, including St. Louis’ charter schools. All public and Catholic school districts in St. Louis city and county announced Sunday night that they plan to close on Wednesday. Public schools will be closed starting Monday in St. Charles County and Wednesday in Jefferson County. 

Updated May 11 with coronavirus-related schedule delays

The Missouri History Museum’s in-person shows have been delayed due to coronavirus. People still interested in learning more about St. Louis’ LGBTQ history can attend a live online event at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The event will be held over a Zoom video conference and will cover key moments in the region’s LGBTQ history. The event also will discuss the Gateway to Pride collection, which is collecting donations for a large exhibit.

The new coronavirus has come to the Metro East. 

St. Clair County Board Commissioner Mark Kern on Saturday issued a disaster proclamation after two women in the county tested positive for the new coronavirus.

County health officials said the two women — one in her 60s, the other in her 70s — returned from international travel about a week ago.

The St. Louis board responsible for the city’s real estate and financial decisions on Wednesday granted NorthSide Regeneration an extension on its troubled north St. Louis urgent care development. 

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment has given developer Paul McKee until August 2020 to secure financing for building the roads and part of the HealthWorks Hospital facility. The board also bumped the development’s next construction deadlines from June 2021 to September 2021. The full health facility project must still be completed by June 2023. 

Two more highway construction projects this weekend will join the closures that have been slowing and frustrating St. Louis-area drivers since early February.

The Missouri Department of Transportation on Sunday will begin closing lanes and ramps on interstates 44 and 55 south of downtown St. Louis. By Monday morning, the department will also close multiple lanes of Interstate 70 on the Blanchette Bridge, which connects St. Charles and St. Louis counties. Both projects are expected to be complete in 2021. 

Updated on Jan. 31 with new information on negotions between SEIU Local 1 and contractors.

The janitorial bargaining team representing SEIU Local 1 has reached a tentative agreement with Clean-Tech, the contractor that employs the union's members to clean buildings around metro St. Louis, including St. Louis County government buildings. The union is not releasing details, but members will vote on whether to accept the tentative agreement in the coming days.

Original Story from Jan. 30:

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced Thursday a proposal to raise some county government employees’ hourly wages to $15 by 2022. 

Officials estimate that implementing the change will cost $2.9 million over a three-year period. The pay will be increased incrementally starting with $13 for 2020. Page said the change will take several months to take effect.

Updated Jan. 31 with adoption by the full Board of Aldermen

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has taken a stand against state action to change the city’s residency requirement for police officers.

“This is not a resolution concerning whether you are for or against the residency of the police,” said Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward, the resolution’s lead sponsor. “This is a resolution opposing the state making that decision.”

Missouri’s Transportation Department is losing employees at a worrisome rate, said Patrick McKenna, its director. 

McKenna said that nearly half of the department's workforce has left and been replaced since 2017. That turnover cost nearly $37 million last fiscal year, according to MoDOT estimates. 

McKenna said that high turnover rate has made it hard to get employees trained in time for them to deal with bad weather. 

The quest to bring the Loop Trolley back to life under St. Louis’ regional transit agency has failed. 

Bi-State Development committee members on Friday declined to send to its full Board of Commissioners a proposal to temporarily take over running the trolley. Members of the committees challenged the plausibility and business sense of the proposal, a four-year management contract aimed at making the trolley self-sustaining by 2024. 

Taulby Roach, Bi-State president and CEO, said after the meeting that he does not plan to revise the proposal.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson has raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour for civilian city workers. 

The move is part of a strategy to attract and retain workers in city government and address “chronic understaffing,” according to an executive order signed by Krewson on Friday.

The change means more than 700 current employees will see bigger paychecks starting mid-February, according to the mayor’s spokesman. He said the city expects to hire 300 seasonal workers this summer at the increased hourly rate. 

Missouri’s minimum wage increased to $9.45 an hour this week. 

The 85-cent wage hike, which took effect Jan. 1, is part of a five-year series of raises voters approved by a wide margin in 2018. The minimum wage will increase each year until it reaches $12 an hour in 2023. 

This weekend, the Delmar Loop Trolley could make its last run.

The beleaguered trolley has run out of funding after struggling to grow ridership amidst inconsistent schedules and negative public perception. 

But the Bi-State Development Agency is considering converting the trolley into part of the region’s public transit system. Under Bi-State ownership, the trolley would take Metro Transit tickets and run on a regular schedule. 

A federal judge has ordered Illinois state prisons to immediately overhaul their policies for providing medical care to transgender inmates. 

Currently, according to the ruling, the Illinois Department of Corrections allows unqualified medical professionals to treat transgender patients; it also deprives them of medically necessary medications and accommodations. Prisoners named in the lawsuit testified that these practices jeopardized their health and drove them to harm themselves and attempt suicide. 

The ruling, handed down Thursday, requires the department to update its policies to be consistent with internationally accepted standards of care for medically treating gender dysphoria. 

Updated Feb. 3 with closure announcement

Five Interstate 64 ramps closed permanently Monday near downtown St. Louis. 

The ramps will be replaced by new highway exits that officials say will better connect drivers to the planned new western headquarters of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and a Major League Soccer stadium.

The ramp and related construction is expected to be completed in time for the professional soccer season in early spring 2022, according to St. Louis Development Corporation spokesman John Parker.

Pages