Hospitality businesses won’t have to pay back emergency relief loans, Kansas governor says

photo by: Associated Press

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly speaks to reporters, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, during a Statehouse news conference in Topeka, Kan. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

WICHITA — Hospitality businesses that got loans through an emergency relief fund in Kansas at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic will no longer have to repay the money, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said Tuesday.

Funding provided through the Hospitality Industry Relief Emergency Fund has been converted from bridge loans to grants, the governor said. The program was originally envisioned as a working capital loan program. Businesses that have made repayments will be reimbursed.

The fund was established last year to provide immediate help to Kansas hospitality businesses faced with revenue losses because of COVID-19. In total, $5 million went to 344 businesses statewide, according to the governor’s office.

Restaurants, bars, lodging facilities, conference centers and event spaces were among the businesses hit hardest by closures, cancellations and social distancing requirements, Lt. Gov. David Toland said.

The latest move on the economic front comes amid other signs of recovery.

The largest school district in Kansas plans to transition more students to in-person classes next week.

Wichita Public Schools announced that starting Monday seniors and sixth-grade students will attend class on-site every day except Wednesdays, which will remain remote. Freshmen will start March 8.

The change affects only students whose parents opted for on-site learning, the Wichita Eagle reported. Parents who chose the remote learning model will continue to keep their children at home.

School officials previously said about 40% of students enrolled in only remote classes.

The district said social distancing will occur as possible and students are expected to wear masks, wash hands and stay home if they are sick. It cited decreasing COVID-19 numbers in making the decision.

“I think we’re all excited that we’re moving closer and closer and we’re inching forward toward providing at least a little bit more normalcy,” said Stan Reeser, president of the Board of Education.

The move comes as more teachers and school staff have received first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. The district held its second vaccination clinic over the weekend.

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