Kansas to allocate over $9M for community development projects; state now has ‘abundant’ tests for symptomatic patients

photo by: Conner Mitchell

Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Lee Norman and Gov. Laura Kelly speak at a news conference on May 11, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka.

Updated at 1:19 p.m. Tuesday

Most cities and counties across the state of Kansas will soon be able to apply for a new pool of federal grants designed to help communities at a local level recover from damages caused by COVID-19, Gov. Laura Kelly announced Monday.

As part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act stimulus package passed in March, Kansas now has access to over $9 million in new money to allocate through the Community Development Block Grant program, a long-running initiative of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Kelly said.

Local governments will have the ability to apply for hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to be allocated toward either economic development projects or local meal programs as long as the projects are exclusively related to issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A key focus of those funds, Kelly said, will likely be dedicated to small businesses that have been hit especially hard by the pandemic — such as hair salons that have been forced to temporarily close or caterers who no longer have large events to serve.

Cities and counties can apply for up to $300,000 in economic development grants and up to $100,000 in meal program grants, Kelly said. The money isn’t a loan and does not have to be repaid.

All cities and counties in the state with at least 51% of the population in low-to-moderate income standards are eligible for CDBG funds, according to the state Department of Commerce website.

This includes every city and county in the state except for the following: Kansas City, Overland Park, Manhattan, Lawrence, Topeka, Wichita, Leavenworth and all of Johnson County.

Douglas County Administrator Sarah Plinsky told the Journal-World Tuesday that local officials confirmed with the state that the Douglas County government isn’t eligible for CDBG funds since the city of Lawrence is an entitlement community, meaning it has over 50,000 residents and is eligible for different streams of federal funding.

Communities outside of Lawrence, such as Baldwin City, Eudora and Lecompton are eligible to apply for the $9 million in additional funds Kelly announced Monday, a spokesperson for the state Department of Commerce confirmed.

“We know COVID-19 has taken a toll on businesses across the state,” Kelly said. “Small businesses have inherent challenges when it comes to being competitive. They simply have fewer resources and are now struggling even more due to the fallout of COVID-19.”

Applications for CDBG funds will open at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Kelly said, and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis until all $9 million is doled out.

“The CDBG will allow decisions to be made at the local level and by the people who know their communities’ needs best,” Kelly said.

Kansas on Monday confirmed an additional 132 cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s cumulative total to 7,116, state Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Lee Norman said.

The state also confirmed one additional death, bringing Kansas’ death toll from the virus to 158.

Testing capacity in Kansas, which at one point ranked last in the U.S. per capita, has increased to the point that the state now has “abundant” supplies to test anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, Norman said. As of Monday, the state, which has a population of about 2.9 million, had tested just over 54,000 people for the virus.

Going forward, Norman said the state needs to hit a testing rate of 2% of all residents to reach a comfortable benchmark for epidemiologic modeling and predicting. Kansas has currently tested 1.81% of residents, but once that 2% benchmark is reached, officials can more accurately predict the virus’ spread.

“What I think the end game is going to come down to is it’s about congregate living situations,” Norman said. “I think there’s going to be wide open spaces that have very little disease ultimately.”

KDHE, Norman said, is currently tracking 78 outbreaks of the virus, which can be traced to the following locations:

• 29 from private companies, resulting in 427 cases and five deaths;

• 24 from long-term care facilities, resulting in 575 cases and 92 deaths;

• Nine from religious gatherings, resulting in 114 cases and nine deaths;

• Seven from meat-packing plants, resulting in 1,280 cases and two deaths;

• Three from group living facilities, resulting in 41 cases and zero deaths;

• Three from correctional facilities, resulting in 863 cases and three deaths;

• Three from health care facilities, resulting in 22 cases and zero deaths.

Going forward, KDHE will release new COVID-19 data only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that three cities in Douglas County are eligible to apply for the CDBG funds.


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