Missouri task force releases report on ways to help small businesses struggling due to pandemic

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – So you’re tired of dealing with all the problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic?

“Business owners are tired like everyone else,” said Rusty Worley, executive director of the Downtown Springfield Association.

That’s why, in March of last year, Missouri Governor Mike Parson established a 10-member task force that toured the state on a public listening tour and speaks with experts about what the state could do to deal with small business struggles continuing into its second year from COVID-19.

“As our state’s economy has recovered, it’s important to continue supporting our small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy,” Parson said. “We appreciate the work of the members of the Show Me Strong Recovery Task Force and the opportunities they have identified to better address the challenges facing small businesses. Their efforts have produced thoughtful recommendations designed to benefit hardworking business owners across the state. »

Some of these recommendations include:

  • Improving the Availability and Affordability of Child Care Services to Support Working Families
  • Develop and promote apprenticeships in the hospitality industry
  • Update and promote Missouri’s Fast Track program, an opportunity for people to receive financial assistance to train for better jobs
  • Streamline small business interaction with state agencies by creating a “one-stop-shop” business portal so they can get all the information and resources they need from one place
  • Promote and improve existing public programs and services to support women and minority-owned businesses

“The COVID-19 pandemic has tested our state in so many ways, and small businesses in Missouri are among the hardest hit,” said Anna Hui, chair of the Show Me Strong Recovery task force and director. of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. “The task force represented a diverse cross-section of government officials and business owners who worked hard to understand the challenges Missourians face every day. We hope these results will be helpful in meeting the needs of business owners and ensuring a prosperous future. »

“I think the task force has done a good job calling out the challenges that our small businesses are facing right now,” Worley said. “Our business owners are stretched further than they have ever been.”

“We’re trying to bounce back and that’s all we can do now,” added Missy Trapp, who became general manager of Springfield’s Big Whiskey’s just as the pandemic hit.

The task force’s recommendations for supply chain assistance are of interest to Trapp because she never knows when a menu item might be affected.

“People always come here for our Southwestern spring rolls,” Trapp said. “But since COVID happened, we haven’t had them. So we had to make a menu change.

The task force report also talks about providing more state resources such as subsidies, as hiring and retaining a workforce is still a problem.

“I think the grant programs offered by the state were very helpful in the early stages of the pandemic,” Worley said. “So if the state can come up with resources to add to that, that will help us. We’re lucky to have a large student base here, but the way people consume their meals is different than what she was. So I think companies are going to have to keep looking at their service delivery and things like are there any opportunities for automation?”

“I had to start with a whole new staff after COVID because a lot of people left,” Tripp said of his 35 downtown staff.

Locally owned Big Whiskey’s actually increased its number of restaurants during the pandemic and now has 13 locations in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Alabama.

“We’ve been like a family sending staff to other places that needed help,” Trapp said of the challenge of having enough staff. “I don’t think it will ever go back to normal. I think that’s what we’re going to have to deal with for a while.

It will be up to Governor Parson to decide what to do with the task force’s recommendations.

And while the solutions are yet to be determined, there is no doubt that the challenges are still there.

“It’s not an easy time owning a small business,” Worley said. “So it’s important to recognize that they (the state government) are listening and trying to bring tools to the table.”

To learn more about the Show Me Strong Recovery Task Force or view its recommendations report, visit https://ded2.mo.gov/show-me-strong-recovery-task-force.

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