$1 for 3 months
$1 for 3 months

Governor, legislative leaders set up to $45M more toward statewide testing

Titus Wu
The Topeka Capital-Journal
The State Finance Council meets Thursday via Zoom to allocate portions of the reserves in COVID-19 relief funding made available through the CARES Act.

Gov. Laura Kelly and legislative leaders on the State Finance Council on Thursday approved allocation of part of the reserve money in statewide COVID-19 relief funding.

Of the $75 million set aside as a reserve, $30 million will go toward testing and $20 million will go toward small business grants.

Furthermore, the council gave authority to the state committee in charge of the relief funding, the SPARK Committee, to transfer an additional $15 million from the portion for child care to the portion for testing, if that is required.

All this comes amid the backdrop of Kansas having reached 1,000 COVID-19 deaths, and more cases are being reported.

“The fuse is so short if we’re going to snuff out an incubation period, we need to start testing quickly,” said Sen. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, who proposed the idea of setting that $15 million toward testing if needed.

In addition to the approximately $53 million already set aside for testing, all that would push potential funding for statewide testing to over $95 million, which is what the Office of Recovery had estimated to be the cost by the end of this year.

Outside of testing, the child care portion has been less expensive than expected. Of $40 million set aside for child supervision for working parents dealing with remote or hybrid school learning, only about $7 million had been spent.

The state doesn’t expect that $40 million to be reached, which is a big reason the additional $15 million that could go to testing came from that portion. There was some concern, though.

“We’re hearing a lot about capacity in our hospitals, a lot of it is not just bed space, it’s also the ability of our health workers to be there,” said Rep. Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, referring to children of those workers needing supervision.

But Ryckman was assured that $15 million would go only if testing happened to need more money, and even then, there would still be $18 million left.

The additional $20 million going toward small business grants also came from the reserve portion initially set aside for child care. The demand for such grants had been high, with $133 million requested but only $35 million awarded.

In the most recent meeting of the SPARK Committee, many members had been asking for that.

“Let’s do everything we can to buttress up that small business need. We have the opportunity to do it. We just need to make it happen,” committee member Chuck Mageral, who also owns a small business, said at that time.

Even with that additional money, not all those small business grant applicants may be covered, said the Office of Recovery’s Julie Lorenz. About 2,000 businesses may need to be redirected to counties, which may have set up their own business grants with their own CARES Act money.

The State Finance Council also approved the ability to shift money within Round 2 programs if needed, such as the extra $500,000 freed up after a statewide courier program was being implemented in other ways.

About 39 working days remain before the end-of-the-year deadline for spending CARES Act relief funding.