April 20 Newsletter

COVID-19 Timeline in Missouri

March 23 - New testing guidelines go into effect for Missouri. Doctors no longer need to connect a patient to known exposure to get a test.

Federal, state and local officials announce the automatic extension for tax filing from April 15 to July 15. 

March 25 - For the first time, Missouri's coronavirus increased by 100 people in a single day to 370 total with 8 deaths.

US Senate passes $2 trillion stimulus package- **More on this below**

March 27 - President Trump partially approves Missouri's request for disaster declaration. This allows the state to assist local governments and nonprofit agencies responding to the pandemic. 

April 1 - Governor Parson announces a freeze of about $180 million in state spending to make up for the financial cost of the response to the virus.  

April 3 - Governor Parson announces a statewide stay-at-home order -- **more on this below. St. Louis County closes all parks at 8pm. Local grocery stores enact one shopper per household policy. 

As of April 7, Missouri has over 3,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 70 deaths. Over 27,100 Missourians have been tested.

For reference, the last time we emailed you on 3/22, there were 90 positive cases and 3 deaths. To stay updated on cases in Missouri, click this link from the MO Department of Health


What Happens to Elections

As Missouri's cases of coronavirus are expected to peak in 2-3 weeks, it is likely that Missouri will have to conduct elections during an active pandemic. First, it's important to know what elections are even coming up. 

2020 Election Dates

  1. Municipal Elections - These elections deal with your municipal issues - school bond issues, Ballwin's alderman, etc. Originally, this election was scheduled for April 7. The Governor signed an Executive Order that postponed these elections to June 2.
     
  2. Primary Elections - These are the party elections for every office except President. Democrats will vote amongst democrats from Governor down to State Representative, as will Republicans, Libertarians, etc. Primary Elections are scheduled for August 4

  3. General Election - This is the final election where everyone is on the same ballot from President down. This is scheduled for November 3

Can we vote by mail?

Several other states have long since enacted provisions that allow their citizens to mail-in their ballots instead of having to physically go to the polling place. 

Missouri does not have any such laws. Currently, Missouri allows voters to vote "absentee" - all this means is that for one of 10 qualifying reasons, you are unable to physically go to the polls on Election Day requiring you to vote in absentia - you request a ballot to be sent to your house, you fill it out, and then you send it back to your local Election Board by Election Day. However, you must fall under one of the very specific reasons why you cannot go to your polling place. 

Who can make mail in voting happen?

The dates of our elections are set forth through state statute - laws that are passed by the legislature. As of right now, there is a debate as to whether or not Governor Parson has the authority to expand absentee voting so more people can mail in their ballots. The Governor was afforded certain special powers when a state of emergency was declared on March 13.

In this case, elections could hinder the states response to the spread of the coronavirus which would allow the Governor to change any statutory requirements related to elections. 

What should we do?

First, if you feel that the Governor should take steps to move Missouri towards mail-in voting, you can sign this letter that is being sent to election officials across the country urging them to expand access to mail-in voting. Over 350,000 people have signed on.

Call Jeff City: Additionally, you can call and speak with both the Governor's office at 573-751-3222 and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft's office at 573-751-2301. The influx of calls sent into the Governor's office urging him to issue a statewide stay-at-home order was a huge factor in Governor Parson's eventual decision to issue one. 

Call Local Election Boards: You can put pressure on local officials to encourage the Secretary of State to push this issue with the Governor. Our local election boards are in direct contact with Jefferson City and are in the best position to help push this effort. Call the St. Louis County Election Board at 314-615-1854 or 314-615-1851 to speak with either Director. Call the St. Louis City Election Board at 314-622-4336. 

Secondly, we must move forward assuming that expanded access to absentee voting will not occur. This means that we have to stay vigilant ourselves. Your next election is in June and unfortunately, the opportunity to request a ballot for this one has passed. This means that the next election you can vote absentee in is the August Primary Election. You must request an absentee ballot from your local election board by July 22. If you cannot go to your polling place in August for any reason, request an absentee ballot. To request your absentee ballot, you will have to go through your election board's website.

To look at your ballot, go to the Missouri Secretary of State's website here and enter in your address. 


2020 Census Underway 

Adapting to the virus, the 2020 Census is still undertaking the task of counting every American. Each Congressional District's count of Americans determines where hospitals and schools are built, how much federal funds are dispersed, and how the districts themselves are apportioned. It is vitally important that you fill out the census. If your ethnicity or nation of origin is not specifically listed, make sure to write it in (i.e. click "Other Asian" then type in Pakistani, or Bengali, etc.)

It really never has been easier to submit your answers to the census.Since you're likely to be sheltered at home for a while, we suggest going to the Census website now and click "Start Questionnaire". It should only take you a few minutes. 


Missouri's Stay-At-Home Order

Governor Parson's statewide stay-at-home order took effect at 12:01AM on April 6. County and City leaders had already issued stay-at-home orders limiting travel to essential purposes only. 

Under the order, businesses are only required to comply with social distancing requirements of no more than 10 individuals in a single space - allowing them to stay open. Local officials both in the City and the County have been enforcing their own rules issuing letters to businesses that are still operating in violation of their orders. 

Violations of these orders could result in a Class A misdemeanor and a fine of up to $2000. In addition, if your non-essential business is found operating in violation of the order, you could forfeit your access to federal coronavirus relief packages

It is clear that though there are violators, the vast majority of Missourians are abiding by social distancing guidelines. Remember to limit travel for only essential purposes which include grocery shopping, going to a pharmacy, and outdoor exercise.  


$2 Trillion Stimulus Package

On March 25, the Senate agreed on a $2 trillion stimulus package in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. This bipartisan agreement is known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. There are 6 main groups that will be impacted by the CARES Act - individuals, small businesses, big corporations, hospitals and public health, federal safety net, and state and local governments. 

1. Individuals

Stimulus Checks: If you earn less than $75,000 a year, you can expect a one-time cash payment of $1,200 which will be disbursed in the coming weeks. Married couples will receive $1,200 each and $500 per child. These payments are based on either your 2018 tax returns or 2019 if you have already filed it. If you entered direct deposit information to the IRS, you will receive your money more quickly. 

The money starts to phase down between $75,001 and $99,000. If you make more than that, you will not receive this stimulus money. $300 billion was allocated for this purpose. 

Unemployment: If you apply and are granted state unemployment insurance, you will automatically receive an additional $600/week from this expansion of federal unemployment benefits for at least 4 months.

Gig workers/freelancers: There is now a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program through the end of the year to help those who lost their source of income due to the pandemic. 

Student Loans: If you receive student loans through the federal government, then all payments were suspended retroactive to March 13 through September 30, 2020. No interest will accrue during this time period. This is only applicable to those who took out direct or FFEL loans from the federal government. If you are not eligible under these terms, you are still on the hook for your monthly payments. If you are struggling to make payments, contact your lender for forbearance options. 

2. Small Businesses 

The CARES Act allocates emergency grants and a forgivable loan program for companies with 500 or fewer employees. $10 billion is allocated for grants for up to $10,000 to provide emergency funds to cover immediate operating costs. There is also $350 billion for loans up to $10 million per business and if any of that money is used to maintain payroll or rent or mortgage payments, then the loan can be forgiven. 

3. Big Businesses 

Bigger businesses will also receive some relief through the CARES Act but these loans will have to be paid back and there are subject to certain requirements. For example, unlike the stimulus packages passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, companies that receive these loans cannot make stock buybacks for the term of the loan plus one year. In addition, the CARES Act creates the role of a special inspector general to oversee pandemic recovery. 

4. Public Health

The CARES Act allocates $100 billion for hospitals across the country to respond to the coronavirus. An additional $1.32 billion in immediate funding is allocated to community centers that provide services for almost 28 million people. $11 billion will go towards diagnostics, treatments and vaccines and $20 billion has been set aside for veterans. $80 million is allocated to the FDA to expedite approval of new drugs while the CDC will be given $4.3 billion. 

5. Safety Net

Welfare programs for America's most needy will be allocated several billion dollars. $8.8 billion will be given to schools to expand access to meal services. $15.5 billion will go to expanding access to food stamps and food banks across the country will have access to an additional $450 million. 

6. State and Local Governments

Almost $400 billion is designated for state and local governments for community development grants, education, and direct aid who are running out of cash because of the pandemic.  


Resources

A full and comprehensive list for local resources in St. Louis is located at this link. This provides an in-depth timeline and various avenues for those affected by the pandemic to seek relief. 


That's all for now. We hope we have been able to provide you some useful information. Consider following us on our social media using the links below the blue bar. We will continue to push out new and up to date information through there and we are getting ready to start sharing helpful videos covering filing for unemployment, applying for disaster relief loans, student loan payments, etc. 

As always, if you have any questions or concerns please reach out to us by emailing saad@mbamissouri.com. If you or someone you know is struggling due to COVID-19, please reach out to us so we can try to help.