Kelly seeks plan to help Kansas homeowners and renters, says most of state can move into next reopening phase Monday
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has tasked the committee charged with leading the state’s reopening efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic with exploring the creation of a relief fund for renters and homeowners still struggling to make ends meet.
Kelly said during a Friday media briefing that of all the executive orders she had to let lapse after Republican lawmakers allowed the state of emergency declaration to expire in May, the most difficult was the order prohibiting evictions and foreclosures for people unable to pay their bills because of the pandemic.
And even though the Kansas Department of Labor has processed close to $1 billion in unemployment benefits since the pandemic began, Kelly said she knew that countless Kansans continued to struggle financially.
“I know the economic impact of this virus has been brutal for homeowners and renters alike,” she said. “I want struggling Kansans to know I understand how you feel and how fearful you remain for your future.”
Kelly said she has tasked the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas task force with examining what options are available to protect homeowners and renters in Kansas, as well as banks and businesses who manage the properties.
The latter would be further penalized if Kelly were to simply reinstate the ban on evictions and foreclosures, she said, which is why the SPARK task force will examine the best solution for all involved.
Also on Friday, Kelly said Kansas’ COVID-19 data continued to suggest downward trends in the key reopening metrics of disease spread, hospitalization rates and testing capacity. Therefore, most local communities in the state can move into Phase 3 of Kelly’s guidance to reopen the state on Monday, as scheduled.
Without naming them, Kelly cautioned the handful of areas in Kansas that have seen plateauing, rather than declining, data trends to not move into Phase 3 too quickly. And even for the communities that do, she made clear that individuals will be responsible for protecting those around them going forward.
“Personal responsibility will be crucial for keeping entire communities safe,” she said. “I know life is beginning to feel a little bit more normal, but we are not out of the woods yet.”
Kansas on Friday confirmed an additional 223 cases of COVID-19 since data was last released on Wednesday by the state Department of Health and Environment. The state’s cumulative case total sits at 10,393, and the respiratory virus has now killed 232 Kansans — 10 more deaths since Wednesday.
KDHE Secretary Dr. Lee Norman said Friday that the state was monitoring 145 outbreaks of the virus, 44 of which are no longer active.
Those outbreaks have accounted for 5,391 cases and 163 deaths so far and can be traced to the following locations.
• 66 from private industry, 17 of which are inactive, resulting in 511 cases and six deaths;
• 37 from long-term care facilities, 12 of which are inactive, resulting in 748 cases and 123 deaths;
• 15 from various gatherings, eight of which are inactive, resulting in 178 cases and 13 deaths;
• 10 from meatpacking plants, resulting in 2,833 cases and 12 deaths;
• Seven from group-living arrangements, four of which are closed, resulting in 93 cases and two deaths;
• Five from health care facilities, three of which are closed, resulting in 44 cases and zero deaths;
• Three from correctional facilities, resulting in 980 cases and seven deaths;
• Two from a day care facility in Ford County, resulting in four cases.
Norman said Friday that he had been made aware that Kansas had recently confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a 2-month-old and a 4-month-old infant. This shows, he said, that people should not make blanket assumptions that the disease doesn’t affect children.
“We cannot let our guard down, and we cannot make assumptions that children get off scot-free with this virus,” he said.