COMO: RMF Community Response to COVID-19

RE: CoMO Speaks; Common Needs for Public Health & Safety; Mitigating Pandemic Challenges; and a Return to Our Lives

COLUMBIA, MO., 14 May 2020 -- Race Matters, Friends (RMF) would like to take this opportunity to disrupt yet another example of either/or binary thinking in addressing community problems. There are inherent conflicts with both Mike Trapp and Fred Parry’s indulgence in throwing the City/County Public Health and Human Services Department under the bus during a crisis as elected officials, ostensibly representing the very agencies undermining public health officials.

RMF sees white men (i.e. white interests) mostly engaged in power struggle rooted in shameless self-interest and ideological grievances instead of focusing on repairing/resolving/focusing on the immediate challenge: COVID-19 and ENTIRE Community Response. Their position is clearly a power struggle to control who can reopen for business, pitted against a lack of  (affordable) accessibility to testing for the public, and  effectively establishing de facto policy on who is entitled to remain healthy or permitted to mitigate their own exposure and risks..

The pro-business/anti-business dichotomy is a dangerous and pathological binary that glosses over any meaningful strategization or feasible solutions while engaging in topics that affect ALL Columbia residents. We perceive the ”reopen business” campaign as a political power grab in the midst of a public health crisis. A larger tragedy in our view is a lack of institutional partners with entities such as University Physicians, the MU School of Medicine, Boone Hospital, the Harry S. Truman Veteran’s Hospital, the University of Missouri and it’s R1 research credentials. Why are these public institutions not visible and publicly cooperating to support and advocate for our Public Health and Human Services Department? This, in our opinion, is public policy malpractice.

Even though we are/were not involved in the creation of CoMo Speaks, we applaud its message. It appears by its content that CoMo Speaks is not an argument about keeping people from work and earning an income, contrary to circulating criticism. We all realize that a lot of local business owners and workers are hurting.  We agree with Como Speaks’ inclusive message about making sure all people can return to work - safely. However, we are not suggesting that we get back to a normal that doesn’t exist anymore. We want our community to return to work and other semblances of normalcy, all while protecting their health and safety. People before profits.

In the meantime, RMF is preparing to host an online discussion via Zoom (TBA -- open to the community) to explore workable solutions and propose the following ideas/topics for consideration.  These are ideas we are processing for a public discussion:

  • The City has off-shored investments that have been set-aside as emergency contingency funds.  These funds also draw interest to support city budgets. From our understanding, this balance approaches $400M (based on reports from city staff). Although we understand the negative impact that withdrawals would have on city budgetary practices, the budget is not the crisis. 
  • The pandemic and its impact on the business community and citizens alike are the immediate crisis to be addressed. Addressing the immediate problems facing our community should be paramount to the survivability of business and citizens alike. Science-based solutions by those qualified to lead us through this challenge will best balance the needs of the business community and community at large. Ultimately, the City can return to restoring the contingency funds in  the near future, and over a longer period of time. This will be best re-established by taking a shared approach to this problem.
  • These funds should absolutely be tapped as we are facing a public health and economic emergency situation. We propose the following actions be considered by the City of Columbia. 
    • Place a moratorium on all property owners, commercial and residential, collecting rent in exchange for the City funding the most basic of their costs.
    • All citizens of Columbia who earn less than $30,000/yr per IRS filings be afforded a $500/mos stipend to help meet basic living requirements towards food and shelter, and to help augment for those bills and services beyond the control of the City . We recommend exploring options to treat the stipend as non-taxable income for Federal and State interests where possible. Similarly, the City should be looking for sources of revenue from State and Federal programs where available.
    • All citizens earning $30,001 - $40,000 be offered a $500/mos stipend, modified by a graduated scale. For example, [1 - (net income/40000)] x $500 as a gradually reduced percentage from $500/mos baseline  as  applied above. This translates roughly to a decrease in $75 allotted per $2,000 increment above $30,000 (capped at $40,000) - reduced from the baseline of $500.
    • Our justification of a $30,000-$40,000 net income  target is predicated on the strong likelihood that low-income households are most vulnerable to insolvency as they are likely unable to set aside enough funds into savings to reasonably cover their expenses. We feel that this is not an excessive request, particularly as it will help stave off malnourishment of members of the community, individuals and families, to include children whose only dog in this fight is survival.
    • Place a moratorium on all fees for public services: utilities, water, gas, etc. on a graduated scale as above;, recommending $30,000-$40,000.

The City has the means of production to operate without the necessity of capital beyond that of strictly unavoidable costs, which can be covered from the contingency funds. This might also take the form of a targeted, graduated fee structure much as previously described to minimize the impact on the contingency funds balance and target those with the highest need for intervention. We think CoMo Speaks expresses a multivocal hope that aspires for all of us to get back to our lives in the most effective manner to the best interest of all parties.

RMF Executive Team

Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, President

Kendra Jackson Thornton, Vice President

David Del Llano Mich, Secretary

Chad McLaurin, Treasurer

Supporting

Peggy Placier, Project Coordinator, Community Bail Fund

Transparency Matters

Rebecca Shaw, Organizer, CoMo For Progress

Maria Oropallo

Resources for Thought

COVID-19: Implications for Business, 2020.05.13 | McKinsey & Company

COVID-19 Facts and Insights (PDF), 2020.05.06 | McKinsey & Company

Economic Impact Payment Information Center | Internal Revenue Service

Economic Effects of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Implications for a Modern-Day Pandemic (PDF), 2007.11 | Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis

Businesses in the Tri-State Region Struggling to Weather the Coronavirus Outbreak, 2020.03.20 | Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Fight the Pandemic, Save the Economy: Lessons from the 1918 Flu, 2020.03.27 | Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Lessons Learned from the 1918–1919 Influenza Pandemic in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota (Public Health Reports), 2007.11/12 | ResearchGate doi: 10.1177/003335490712200612

Struggling in a Good Economy, and Now Struggling in a Crisis, 2020.04.20 | NY Times

"Great Influenza" Author Talks COVID-19, 1918 Flu, 2020.04.10 |Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

Books:

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