Kansas Common Sense
May 11 2020
Coronavirus Update: Bringing Surgical Masks to Kansas
Please take precautions to keep you and your families safe, and please call your primary care physician if you are experiencing symptoms related to the coronavirus. It is important as individuals we each take a personal responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve, including washing our hands regularly, avoiding touching our face, sneeze or cough into a tissue or the inside of our elbow and disinfecting frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible. Please also remember to practice social distance by maintaining a safe six feet apart from people outside of your home.
In the midst of this pandemic, I realize that our economy will only recover once we address the issue of people’s health. I am supportive of widespread testing efforts so that Kansans can feel secure in their health and we can begin to look forward towards economic recovery.
Kansas to Receive 100,000 Surgical Masks From Taiwan
On Wednesday, I announced that Kansas will receive 100,000 surgical masks from Taiwan. Following my request, Taiwan designated 100,000 masks for Kansas as part of its third round of international aid to countries impacted by COVID-19.
We have a shortage of PPE in hot spots across our state, and I’m very appreciative of Taiwan for generously donating 100,000 surgical masks to Kansas to protect our frontline medical professionals and those working in our vital food supply chains. This is another great reminder that we are all in this together and that Taiwan’s contributions to promoting global health deserve the highest praise.
Read more from KMBC9 News, here.
Joining The University of Kansas Health System Media Update
On Friday morning, I joined The University of Kansas Health System for a media update regarding COVID-19. We discussed federal relief for hospitals in Kansas and the need to keep hospitals open and safe during this pandemic.
I was joined by The University of Kansas Health System’s Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Doug Gaston, Medical Director for Infection Prevention and Control Dr. Dana Hawkinson and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steve Stites. To watch the full media update, please click here.
Examining the State of the Aviation Industry
On Wednesday, I participated in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing that examined the impact COVID-19 has had on the aviation industry. During the hearing, I discussed the importance of maintaining our aviation manufacturing workforce to ensure the industry can recover as swiftly as possible. I also questioned what changes we can expect when traveling through airports in the future and what resources they might need from Congress to achieve these new modifications. Additionally, I was able to thank our air traffic controllers for their continued hard work during this crisis. The United States aviation system is the largest and most complex in the world, and I’m dedicated to ensuring they receive the resources needed to continue weathering this crisis.
Introducing Legislation to Expand Servicemembers’ Legal Protections
As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (SVAC), I introduced legislation with Ranking Member Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), to expand Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protections to servicemembers who were previously issued orders to change duty stations but, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, received a stop movement order and may have a housing or car lease in two different locations.
Our servicemembers and their families are often asked to pick up their lives and move around the world due to deployments or a change in duty station, and the SCRA provides the military and their families with legal protections to help with these transitions. As we face a global pandemic, military families are being impacted by orders to stay at their current duty station after they received orders and made plans to move. Our bipartisan legislation is also supported by most veterans and military groups as well as the Departments of Justice and Defense and will help provide much-needed assistance and additional legal protection for military families in this situation and therefore have lease commitments in two locations. This legislation will provide the necessary financial housing and automobile protections to servicemembers in Kansas and servicemembers during this difficult time.
Protecting Your Online Information During COVID-19
As the Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, with jurisdiction over the FTC, I joined my colleagues in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in introducing the COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act on Thursday. The legislation would provide all Americans with more transparency, choice, and control over the collection and use of their personal health, device, geolocation, and proximity data. The bill would also hold businesses accountable to consumers if they use personal data to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. While many businesses have taken steps to develop technological solutions to tracking, containing and ending the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress must address potentially harmful practices that could stem from these innovations. This legislation will address specific consumer privacy violations resulting from COVID-19, and I encourage my colleagues to support this bill so that we can better protect people’s personally identifiable information during this pandemic.
Cosponsoring Legislation to Help First Responder Families
This week, I cosponsored bipartisan legislation, the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act (SAFR), in support of the families of fallen first responders. This legislation would ensure that families of officers and first responders lost to COVID-19 can quickly access survivor benefits under the Public Safety Officer Benefits Program, reducing unnecessary barriers.
Our law enforcement officers and first responders continue to show up for work every day during this pandemic despite the added risk of contracting COVID-19. As a country, we support and care for the families of first responders when they pass away from a work-related event, but this bill recognizes the threat this disease has on law enforcement and first responders and helps provide their families with the benefits they are owed. I’m proud to support this legislation and as chairman of the appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction in this area, I will continue to work to ensure our law enforcement officers, first responders and their families are cared for.
Discussing the Air Force’s Agility Prime Program
I spoke with Dr. Will Roper, the Air Force Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, last week to discuss the service branch’s new Agility Prime program and how Kansas is able to support its mission. Agility Prime is an effort to partner with private companies that are focused on Advanced Air Mobility, also known as flying cars, to make this technology applicable to the military. Kansas is a proven aviation powerhouse, which makes us a natural partner for Agility Prime. I discussed our highly-qualified universities, innovative aviation industries and workforce, support from local and state governments, and access to military airspace with Dr. Roper and will continue working with the Air Force as Agility Prime develops. Advanced Air Mobility is the future of transportation, and it will find no better partner than the state of Kansas and those who call it home.
Department of Justice Awards Wichita Grant
This week, I’m pleased to share that the City of Wichita was awarded $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) through the CARES Act for state and local law enforcement agencies to fight COVID-19. Law enforcement of?cers across our state continue to put on their uniform each day and do their part in keeping our communities safe during COVID-19. I urged the DOJ to move quickly to distribute Phase III funding to our ?rst responders, and I am pleased to see they have successfully implemented an expedited awards process that will make certain resources reach Kansas law enforcement who play a critical role in responding to this pandemic. As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, I will continue to work to ensure our law enforcement officers are equipped with the necessary tools to keep themselves and the public safe.
Speaking with USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey
Last Wednesday, I spoke with Under Secretary Bill Northey about the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), including making sure USDA avoids including restrictions on the relief that will harm family farmers and ranchers. COVID-19 has taken a significant toll on farmers and ranchers in Kansas. As restaurants have closed to combat the spread of COVID-19, markets for commodities have shrunk significantly, leaving farmers with drastically reduced revenue, threatening the survival of many family farms. Similarly, as meat processing plants have closed or slowed operations to prevent the spread of COVID, ranchers find themselves without a place to take their animals for processing. Ag economists estimate that at least $18 billion of damage has been done to the cattle and pork industries alone so far, with much more damage done to all of agriculture. As originally announced, the amount of relief available to each farmer and rancher would be too restrictive, leaving some producers compensated far below what they need to survive market disruptions due to this outbreak.
In April, I led a group of senators in urging President Trump to improve CFAP by addressing relief restrictions. Late last week, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue stated that USDA would be raising these restrictions. I will continue to work with USDA, including with Secretary Perdue and Under Secretary Northey, to ensure that our farmers and ranchers are supported during this pandemic.
Thank you to Nurses
This week was National Nurses Appreciation week, and it’s important that we thank the heroes who are fighting on the frontlines of COVID-19 risking their own safety and supporting their communities. Thank you for the abundance of care and compassion you show to your patients each day and for helping us get through this pandemic.
Connecting with Kansans
This week, I joined Ken Rahjes with KBUF in Garden City, James Bell with KAYS in Hays, Pete Mundo with KCMO in Kansas City and Brandon Tadtman with KGGF in Coffeyville to discuss bringing more masks to Kansas, testing and the Senate’s work in Washington, D.C. I also spoke with – at a safe social distance – Mike Mahoney with KMBC9 news.
Meeting With The Kansas Association of Broadcasters
On Monday, I held a video conference meeting with the Board of Directors for the Kansas Association of Broadcasters to discuss the continued critical services that television and radio broadcast stations offer to the local communities in Kansas to keep constituents informed on COVID-19 response efforts and share necessary public health information in a timely fashion. Broadcasters have donated significant amounts of airtime to public announcements to serve and inform our constituents in response to this pandemic. However, broadcasters have unfortunately been dramatically harmed by a lack of advertisement revenue during this economic crisis even while more is being asked of their services than ever. I will continue to pursue policies that support the success of Kansas broadcasters and promote community journalism to ensure that our communities, particularly those in rural Kansas, are provided the most up-to-date information in response of this unprecedented public health crisis. Finally, I would like to thank Kent Cornish, President of Kansas Association of Broadcasters, for his years of thoughtful advocacy on behalf of broadcasters in the state as he approaches his upcoming retirement this summer.
Joining Olathe’s Rotary Club Meeting
On Wednesday, I joined the Olathe Rotary Club to discuss COVID-19 and the work happening in Washington, D.C. I gave an update on the federal resources used to support our health care providers and hospitals, the Paycheck Protection Program, and the need for more testing and PPE so people can be confident in their health and we can safely reopen the economy. Rotary clubs play an important role in communities across Kansas, and I appreciated the discussion with Olathe Rotary Club members. Thank you to President Terry Lynch for hosting.
Speaking With Allen County Leaders
On Monday morning, I hosted a video conference meeting with Allen County area leaders to hear their thoughts and concerns about the impacts of COVID-19. I shared information on federal efforts with health providers, local businesses, Allen County Community College along with city, county and state officials. The discussion centered on how federal efforts are impacting the community and what my office can do to offer assistance during this pandemic. I communicated how we are assisting businesses, who have the ability to produce PPE, receive the necessary authorizations, and I updated local leaders on my efforts to increase testing in Kansas. I also spoke on the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program and the health care provider relief fund program.
Thank you to Kansas Senator Caryn Tyson, County Commission Jerry Daniels, Sheriff Bryan Murphy, Iola Mayor Jon Wells, Humboldt City Council Members Cindy Holinsworth and Paul Cloutier as well as ACCC President John Masterson and everyone else on the call for taking the time to join me and contribute to our conversation. I was pleased to hear how everyone was doing, and that the relief from SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program has been afforded to some local businesses and their employees.
Hearing From Ford County
On Friday, I appreciated talking with leaders from Ford County over a video conference meeting to learn about the work being done in Southwest Kansas during the COVID-19 pandemic. They had great questions and feedback on the meatpacking plants, ag producers, the Paycheck Protection Program and what safe practices Ford County is using to reopen businesses.
Boot Hill Distillery shared the great work they have done to restructure their business temporarily to make hand sanitizer for businesses and citizens in Ford County and other surrounding counties. I appreciated hearing from Ford County Administrator J.D. Gilbert, County Health Administrator Angela Sowers, County Commission Chairman Chris Boys, Dodge City Manager Cherise Tieben, Chamber President & CEO Anna Bjerken, Banker Michael Burns, USD 443 Superintendent Dr. Fred Dierksen, DCCC President Dr. Harold Nolte, Russell, Mark, and Scott Fischer, who are longtime friends, and officials from Cargill and National Beef. There were many others on the call as well including State Senator Bud Estes, State Representatives Brad Ralph and Boyd Orr.
Connecting With Thomas County
On Saturday, I spoke with leaders from Thomas County regarding a number of topics related to COVID-19. We discussed relief restrictions on cattlemen, making certain meatpacking plants remain safe to operate, the need for more PPE and federal relief that is reaching the area through health departments, hospitals and the Paycheck Protection Program. We also touched on the challenges a lack of broadband has created for students trying to learn from home, an issue for many rural areas of Kansas, and the lack of tourism dollars along I-70 as people continue to stay home.
It was an informative discussion, and I appreciated hearing everyone’s perspective. Thank you to the County Health Administrator Emily Strange, County Emergency Management Director David Becker, Greg Unruh and Jenny Niblock from the Citizens Medical Center, Colby School Superintendent Katina Brenn, Colby Community College President Seth Carter, Chamber President Tammy Clymer, Dave McCarty of McCarty Family Farms, former Thomas County Commissioner Paul Steel and Kansas Rep. Adam Smith for the conversation.
Thank You to Teachers
This year, teachers have overcome a tremendous change in the way they teach and connect with their students. During National Teachers’ Day this past week, I recognized all of our educators and school staff who have stepped up to find new and innovative ways to support our children and keep their minds active during these difficult times. I also recognized the many parents and caregivers who have helped with homework, planned interesting activities and spent time teaching while their children are at home during COVID-19.
Kansas Health Care Hero
This week’s Kansas Health Care Hero is Dr. Trent Blackwill, DNAP (Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice). Dr. Blackwill is originally from Rooks County – where I am also from – and graduated from Quinter High School. He is currently volunteering at a hospital in Queens, New York, for four weeks. He has always looked for opportunities to help people and after receiving a call to volunteer in New York, caught a flight the next day and within 48 hours was helping care for patients.
Read more about this week’s Kansas Health Care Hero here in the Stockton Sentinel.
#SaluteToBlue for Officer Mosher
Overland Park lost one of its finest last week. I was saddened to hear of the loss of Overland Park Police Officer Mike Mosher who died in the line of duty defending his community. Last night, the community of Overland Park honored Officer Mosher with a #SalueToBlue driving vigil, which also coincides with the start of National Police Week. Hundreds of officers and community members lit up the city to honor Officer Mosher and his service to the community. Watch the #SaluteToBlue vigil here.
Kansan Toby Crouse Nominated for Federal Bench
A lifelong Kansan, Toby Crouse, was nominated by President Trump to serve as a federal judge for the United States Federal District Court for the District of Kansas. A fellow graduate of the University of Kansas Law School, Toby Crouse is a talented lawyer and a well-qualified nominee. Toby has gained valuable experience in private practice, as a clerk for Tenth Circuit Judge Mary Briscoe and as the State of Kansas Solicitor General where he assisted Attorney General Derek Schmidt argue three Supreme Court cases. I am confident Toby understands and has a commitment to both the law and the people of Kansas.
Helping Defense Communities Support Local Infrastructure
The Department of Defense published grant proposal requirements this week for the Defense Community Infrastructure Program (DCIP). This program will allow defense communities across the nation to access federal funds to support local infrastructure projects, create new business partnerships, and support our military families and veterans. As the co-chair of the Senate Defense Communities Caucus, I led the effort to include DCIP in the Fiscal Year 2020 Defense Appropriations bill and am pleased that the Defense Department is moving forward with implementing this program. Defense communities play a vital role in supporting the well-being and morale of our servicemembers and their families. DCIP will allow defense communities to continue supporting our military and its personnel by creating a welcoming environment around our military bases.
To learn more about the Defense Communities Infrastructure Program, click here.
Celebrating V-E Day and President Eisenhower
On Friday, we celebrated the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day marking a tremendous victory by the Allied Forces led by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. This victory was the result of unimaginable sacrifices by our Greatest Generation who fought alongside European allies in World War II for our freedom. Today, and every day, we owe our veterans immeasurable gratitude for protecting our world from evil forces. As chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am committed to making certain our veterans receive the care and benefits owed to them. We will forever be in their debt.
The 75th anniversary of V-E Day was also intended to be the dedication of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C., recognizing the significant contributions President Eisenhower made to our country and world. The memorial is a result of hard work from Senator Pat Roberts, former Kansas Senator Bob Dole many others dedicated to honoring Ike’s legacy.
I look forward to the ceremony this fall and recognizing Kansas’ favorite son.
Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Thank you to the many Kansans who have been calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the issues our state and country face. I appreciate the words of Kansans, whether in the form of a letter, a Facebook comment, or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Please let me know how I can be of assistance. You can contact me by email by clicking here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.
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