Here’s where federal CARES Act funding will help KU in its reopening process

photo by: Conner Mitchell/Journal-World

A direction sign is pictured on the stairs leading up to Wescoe Hall on the University of Kansas campus.

In recent weeks, the University of Kansas has tentatively secured north of $20 million in allocations from the federal CARES Act to put toward the costs associated with reopening its campus through the end of 2020, according to a Journal-World analysis.

That figure includes just over $19 million in CARES Act funding allocated by Gov. Laura Kelly’s SPARK task force, which has also been finalized and approved by the Kansas State Finance Council. KU on Friday was also approved to receive an additional $1.1 million in CARES Act funding allocated by Douglas County. The county’s plan still has to be approved by the state, so the roughly $1.1 million figure could still change.

KU’s projected expenses provide the most detailed information to date of what additional costs the state’s flagship university faces while grappling with reopening safely in a global pandemic.

In late July, the Kansas Board of Regents on behalf of the seven Regents institutions, along with the KU Medical Center, submitted requests to Kelly’s SPARK task force based on their “best effort” at projecting expenses to reopen campuses, board spokesperson Matt Keith told the Journal-World.

KU’s allocations from that source of federal CARES Act funding were approved on July 30.

Here are KU’s most notable needs for federal funding, according to data provided by the Kansas Board of Regents:

• $1,457,700 for personal protective equipment

• $400,000 for other COVID-19 supplies such as gloves, hand sanitizer, individual disinfectant spray and thermometers

• $8,981,050 for various technology upgrades to handle “continuity of instruction” during the pandemic

• $1,019,700 for necessary disinfecting measures

• $890,000 for classroom barriers such as plexiglass shields

• $1,000,000 for additional staffing in Watkins Health Center for COVID-related testing, screenings, etc.

• $1,000,000 for a building rental to ensure social distancing of residents

• $700,000 to isolate and quarantine students and protect against future outbreaks

The university, as the Journal-World has previously reported, also initially requested $6 million dedicated to COVID-19 testing before that request was cut in half — which a KU spokesperson attributed to a miscommunication when filling out the request regarding when the CARES Act money had to be spent by.

In KU’s requests to Douglas County, it requested $102,000 to be used toward leasing Naismith Hall — normally a privately owned residence hall located near Allen Fieldhouse and the KU School of Business — to be used as an isolation dorm for COVID-19-positive students. The Journal-World recently obtained the lease agreement between KU and the New York-based company that owns Naismith Hall, which indicates it will cost $974,999 to lease the building for 10.5 months. The agreement does not specifically mention anything related to COVID-19.

Also of note in KU’s requests to the county:

• $450,000 to fund a meal support program for roughly 450 students who will live in campus scholarship halls

• $300,000 to install 266 kiosks in academic buildings that will be used in conjunction with a health symptom monitoring app KU will use in the fall semester

• $200,000 to purchase special types of respirators — called powered air-purifying respirators — for instructors to use while teaching in person.

When the county approved its CARES Act allocations Friday, it approved all of those requests except for the meal support program, which it reduced by $100,000.

KU also requested from the county $270,000 that would have paid for eight large tents that could be used as outdoor classrooms or social areas during the semester and accommodate between 25 and 96 people. The county denied that request for funding, but the tents are currently standing in various locations on the Lawrence campus.

photo by: Conner Mitchell/Journal-World

A tent sits on the lawn outside of Stauffer-Flint Hall on the University of Kansas campus.

In the Regents data, there were several areas of reopening costs where KU applied for significantly less funding than Kansas State University, the closest Regents institution in terms of size. Most notably, K-State said it needed $2.24 million for personal protective equipment, $1.47 million for other COVID-19 supplies, and $1.7 million for necessary disinfecting measures.

A KU spokesperson did not respond to questions for this article, which included why there were such discrepancies between the two universities’ requests, what exactly the $1 million in building rental to ensure social distancing of residents would be applied to, how much additional staffing at Watkins Health Center the $1 million in funding would provide, and what additional costs KU still faces in reopening.

KU in late July said it had estimated an additional $30 million would be required to safely reopen campus. The amount of federal money it has been approved for so far still leaves KU with around $10 million to account for based on what is currently known — however, the amount of money needed to reopen could have increased since the July estimate, and KU also could have secured additional funding. The Journal-World’s questions were not answered by the university.

Last week, Keith, the Board of Regents spokesperson, told the newspaper that each Regents institution will receive the funding, accompanied with a grant agreement to ensure the money is spent within the guidelines set out in the CARES Act. He also indicated there were a few kinks to work out before the universities would receive the funding.

“There will be a grant agreement with each institution stipulating that the funds must be expended for costs associated with their COVID-19 responses and continuity of instruction, consistent with the CARES Act requirements,” he said. “There are still details about how the distribution of money will flow that have to be worked out between the Board Office and the Governor’s Recovery Office.”

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