TOPEKA, Kan. — Lawmakers on the Kansas State Finance Council approved more than $400 million in federal coronavirus funding.
Kansas was given more than $1 billion in federal funding to be used for coronavirus-related expenses, but the distribution of that money must be approved by the State Finance Council.
Gov. Laura Kelly formed the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Task Force to come up with a plan to distribute federal money to Kansas counties.
The task force decided to send the money to counties based on population size, coronavirus cases and unemployment numbers. The money must be spent by December 30, 2020, otherwise it will be taken back by the Federal Government.
Distribution will occur in three phases:
- Phase One: In June, $400 million will go to counties to be used for health-related expenses that will help reopen the county safely and according to health guidelines.
- Phase Two: In August, $525 million will go to counties to revitalize the economy.
- Phase Three: In October, $324 million will go to counties to prepare for possible future emergencies.
The finance council approved phase one of the plan on Tuesday. Under the SPARK Task Force plan, counties must provide plans on how the money will be spent by September 15, 2020. The council asked that the date be moved up.
The council also strongly recommended that counties share the funding with cities and schools within the county.
“We need to be good stewards of those dollars and make sure that it’s getting for the purpose, for one, that the Federal Government was intending the CARES Act money to go towards, and then also to make sure that it’s being beneficial for the economy and the sustainability of the state of Kansas,” explained Representative Troy Waymaster, R-Bunker Hill.
Some lawmakers suggested that a portion of the federal funds be used to bolster the Kansas unemployment fund, but Governor Kelly said the fund is doing fine and is not a necessity at this time.
“We’re not in the danger zone with it at all,” the governor said. “But if this continues and unemployment continues to be high and we do start drawing those funds down significantly, we can look at use of the CARES funding to replenish that.”
About $26 million was also approved by the council for the governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. The money will go to the Kansas Board of Regents to be used for higher education funding. Kelly said that private schools and universities will be eligible for federal assistance in the future.
Additionally, $16 million was approved to reimburse state agencies for their coronavirus-related costs. The Office of Recovery, which was formed to help distribute money to counties, was also granted $63,000 in order to hire employees and purchase supplies for the office.
“I think we need to take advantage of this opportunity to inform, not only the legislature, but the general public about how we’re being good stewards of their funding and how we’re working with our locals and with out private sector to make sure that we make this as painless as possible for them,” Kelly said.
The State Finance Council will meet in the near future to approve more than $800 million that will be distributed to counties in phases two and three.