Our nation, including the St. Louis community, is in the midst of a global pandemic caused by an outbreak of COVID-19, a respiratory illness that is a particular type of coronavirus. This virus first surfaced late last year in China before quickly spreading across the world. The virus has impacted individuals in all 50 states, and it continues to cause physical, social and economic harm on families and communities everywhere.
This guide provides a brief summary of available resources made possible by our federal, state and local governments, along with our community institutions.
COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory illness, which attacks organs such as the throat and lungs, producing symptoms such as fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. Typically, the virus spreads person-to-person when respiratory droplets from an infected person are transferred to another person by coughing, sneezing or simply talking.
There is currently no treatment or vaccine available; therefore, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) strongly urges the following preventative practices:
- Clean your hands often, washing with soap and water for approx. 20 seconds.
- Practice social distancing (keeping approx. 6 feet between you and others) – and stay home whenever possible.
- Wear a non-surgical mask to cover your mouth and nose when in public.
Common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you have these symptoms, you may be infected. Most people who get sick with this virus can recover at home using over-the-counter treatments to help manage the symptoms. However, in severe cases, hospitalization is necessary if symptoms become life threatening.
Most important, if you suspect you have the virus:
- Isolate yourself at home, staying away from other people and pets that live in the home.
- Call your doctor or local health agency to seek guidance about testing.
- Monitor your symptoms and seek medical attention immediately if symptoms become life threatening.
In addition to its physical and social consequences, the COVID-19 outbreak has caused significant economic uncertainty for individuals and small businesses across St. Louis, including lost wages, revenues and housing instability.
In response, Congress passed and the President has signed into law – legislation titled the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides much needed benefits and protections for families, seniors, students and small businesses. A few notable provisions of this law include:
- Increased and expanded unemployment benefits for workers
- Direct payments for individuals and families, including up to $1,200 for individuals making up to $75,000 ($150,000 for married workers) with an additional $500 payment per minor child.
- Forgivable loans and grants for small businesses under the Payment Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).
- Many more additional benefits, including student loan relief for borrowers as well as mortgage forbearance and eviction protections for homeowners and renters.
In April, the House passed an interim emergency funding package to strengthen the Paycheck Protection Program with $310 billion in additional funding, with $30 billion reserved for community-based lenders, small banks and credit unions and $30 billion for medium-sized banks and credit unions. We expanded small business support beyond PPP by securing $50 billion for SBA disaster lending, translating into more than $350 billion in loans and $10 billion in SBA disaster grants. For more information and to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program, please visit the Small Business Administration Website.
Alongside these federal interventions, local organizations are also stepping up to provide support to small businesses and nonprofits.
- The St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and the St. Louis Development Corporation are offering a 0% interest loan of up to $5,000 for small businesses in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County that have sustained economic damage due to the COVID-19 crisis.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
- The St. Louis Downtown Community Improvement District is also offering up to $5,000 in grants for downtown restaurants.
- Also, the St. Louis Community Foundation has established two funds to help small businesses and nonprofits:
- The Gateway Resilience Fund will help provide short-term monetary relief to small locally owned businesses and their employees.
- The Regional Response Fund was established to direct aid to local nonprofit organizations delivering services to people affected by the virus including children, the elderly, and isolated.
Municipal Elections previously scheduled for April 7 will be postponed until June 2 by an Executive Order by the Governor.
Voters can only vote absentee in Missouri for the following reasons:
- Absence on Election Day from the jurisdiction of the election authority in which such voter is registered to vote;
- Incapacity or confinement due to illness or physical disability, including a person who is primarily responsible for the physical care of a person who is incapacitated or confined due to illness or disability;
- Religious belief or practice;
- Employment as an election authority, as a member of an election authority, or by an election authority at a location other than such voter’s polling place;
- Incarceration, provided all qualifications for voting are retained.
- Certified participation in the address confidentiality program established under sections 589.660 to 589.681 because of safety concerns.
The Missouri State Legislature is currently considering an expansion of mail-in voting due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. This page will be updated with any changes signed into law by the Governor. For more information on absentee voting, please click here if you live in St. Louis City and here if you live in St. Louis County.
In addition to the physical and economic tolls of this disease, there can be mental and emotional consequences as well that are just as important, even though sometimes they go unseen. During these difficult times, we must remember to check in with ourselves and our loved ones. Here are a few best practices that may be applicable to you:
- Be kind to yourself and others
- Remember it’s OK to not be OK
- Monitor your news consumption
If you or someone you know needs additional help dealing with this crisis, please visit the Missouri Department of Mental Health’s website, as well as those websites for the Anxiety & Depression Association of America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness – St. Louis to determine what resources may be available.
Hard times notwithstanding, St. Louisans know the importance of supporting our friends and neighbors. For those who want to help, there are many ways to give back and spread love and kindness (not infection). A few options to consider include:
I have done everything in my power to put families first and to take on undue corporate influence in Congress. Grassroots contributions are essential to countering big corporations, so if you are able, please click here to contribute however much you can to help me continue the fight. Thank you so much for your support, and we will get through this together.
Wm. Lacy Clay