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Employees of Rae's Cafe found new life moving to a location not governed by the Jackson County Health Department.

COVID Mandates costly in Jackson County

Looking back on 2021, there were many confrontations with local governments over COVID. One of the most highly publicized was Rae’s Café in Blue Springs which refused to comply with Jackson County health COVID mandates. The County won a court order to close the business and refused to return the food permit.

At a Sept. 11 rally at Rae’s Café, Attorney General Eric Schmitt said that Jackson County was among the most aggressive governments in the country for enforcing COVID mandates against businesses. An online search of businesses closed for defying health mandates show only one other county aggressively fining businesses for COVID rule violations, in Gibson County, Indiana.

Rae’s Café was lucky in that it moved to a new location on 291 North in Independence, which has a health department separate from Jackson County government. Other businesses were not as fortunate.

Data from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center shows that in 2020, the state lost 44,000 jobs in accommodation and restaurants, with more than 29,000 of those losses occurring in the Kansas City metro. That means that two out of every three jobs lost in those businesses occurred in the metro area, which had government-imposed lock-downs longer with stricter rules than most of the rest of the state. In addition, 1 in 4 Missouri small businesses closed permanently.

This table compares changes from 2016 through 2020.

St. Louis and Kansas City had more COVID mandates than elsewhere in the state, and the overall decrease in the number of jobs there are greater than other areas. The Southwest area includes Greene County and Springfield, which also had strict mandates.

I believe that Jackson County leaders should stop abusing its businesses, and do everything possible to rebuild its commercial base. While the intent of the mandates were to protect the public, it had the clear impact of killing businesses. When businesses die, the only way to maintain the tax revenue base is to increase assessments on residential properties.

–Preston Smith | Metro Voice Columnist