Kansas Common Sense

Relief Is On the Way

Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter. Please feel free to forward it on to your family and friends if it would interest them.

Wishing you a Safe Holiday Season and a Happy New Year

On behalf of Robba and me, we hope you and your family had a very Merry Christmas and a safe holiday.

Throughout this season, I continue to think of the many men and women in uniform at home and abroad who are unable to be with their loved ones. I am grateful for their dedicated service to their fellow Americans and humbled by the sacrifices they make each and every day. We pray for your health and wellbeing and wish you a Happy New Year.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Reaches Veterans and Health Care Workers in Wichita

On Wednesday, I visited Wichita to receive updates on the COVID-19 vaccine distribution. I visited the Dole VA Medical Center where I had the opportunity to see first-hand how a vaccination center is being created for the benefit of patients and medical staff.  Recently, the VA announced it will distribute vaccines to additional veteran facilities—including medical centers in Leavenworth, Topeka and Wichita. I was especially pleased to open the first batch of Moderna vaccines as they arrived on Wednesday morning. 

The Dole VA expects to administer more than 1,000 doses to frontline employees and community living center residents within this first week of the vaccination process. As chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I will continue to make certain the VA has necessary resources to effectively administer the vaccine to our nation’s veterans in a timely manner. Thank you to director Candace Ifabiyi and her team, Associate Pharmacy Chief of Operations Scott Hood, Chief of Pharmacy Susan Duquaine, Inpatient Pharmacy Supervisor Anna Johnson and Pharmacy Technician Rachel Newby for an informative visit and for all they are doing to help our veterans navigate this vaccination process.

Next, I visited the COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic at Wesley Medical Center. The recently passed COVID-19 relief package includes additional resources for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to work with hospitals and other organizations to monitor the appropriate distribution and administration of the vaccine. Thank you to Wesley Chief Operating Officer Kolbe Sheridan for the helpful update. Special thanks to the many health care professionals at Wesley and elsewhere who have sacrificed so much to provide high quality, compassionate care to their patients during this unprecedented pandemic. 

The incredible success of Operation Warp Speed is an example of the exceptionalism that exists within American science and medicine. While we still have a long road ahead, more and more Kansans will soon have access to the vaccines.

I encourage all Kansans to continue to take precautions to keep yourself and your families safe, including wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and frequently washing your hands. To each and every health care worker in Kansas and across our nation, thank you. Your continued dedication and sacrifice have my deepest admiration, and our country owes you a great deal of gratitude for all you have done throughout this pandemic. 

Relief Is On the Way

On Monday night, I voted for the targeted COVID-19 federal relief package that will provide much-needed relief to the American people. This $900 billion relief package was included as part of the larger annual government funding bill for FY2021. The annual government funding bill supports the operation of regular government agencies and priorities, such as the State Department, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture, among others.

This targeted relief package should have been completed months ago and in its own standalone bill, but I’m pleased we are able to provide necessary resources to continue manufacturing and distributing the vaccines to our communities. This package will also provide additional targeted relief to support front-line workers, schools and hospitals, as well as additional funding for the successful Paycheck Protection Program, which will help keep small businesses open and employees on the payroll, and a second round of aid to families during the holiday season.

Below is breakdown of the relief measures included in the COVID-19 relief bill and the many ways it will benefit Kansans:

Invests in Health Care, Testing and Vaccines

Last week marked the beginning of our return to normal with the distribution of the first COVID-19 vaccines in Kansas and across the country. As we continue to work to end this pandemic, this targeted relief package invests in additional resources for testing and the vaccines, as well as support for health care providers and frontline workers.

Helps American families

Kansans and Americans are struggling and they need help. This legislation will provide targeted relief to those who need it most, and individuals and families will receive a second round of Economic Impact Payments.

Supports Small Businesses

Small businesses are the backbone of our communities. In many of our small towns, if we lose the local café or store because of this pandemic, many of them may not return. This will help keep small businesses open and employees on the payroll by replenishing and expanding the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to provide assistance to the hardest-hit small businesses, nonprofits and venues.

Assists Communities

Our state, county and city governments have been working to make decisions at the local level that are best for our communities. This legislation allows them the flexibility they need to extend the use prior federal resources allocated and plan for long-term investments.

Provides Relief for Farmers and Ranchers

The importance of our agricultural community has been especially clear during this pandemic as they work to meet the growing, nationwide demand for food and quality meat. This legislation further supports our Kansas farmers and ranchers through new policies and programs for farmers and ranchers, including cattle producers affected by the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) sales date.

Secures America’s Transportation Industry

Throughout this pandemic, many sectors of our transportation sector have struggled as Americans stayed home. This package provides resources to maintain our critical transportation infrastructure until we return to normal. This includes regional airports like the many throughout Kansas that are critical to regional economies, as well as support for Amtrak, including long-distance passenger rail like the Southwest Chief, and other critical transportation industries hit particularly hard during this pandemic.

Receiving an Update from the Nashville Special Agent in Charge

The bombing in Nashville on Christmas morning was an intentional act of evil. This afternoon, I spoke with ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Nashville Field Division to receive an update on their response and investigation. While much is still unknown, I trust that the ATF and FBI, as well as the state and local law enforcement, are working diligently to bring those responsible for this heinous act to justice.

The response and coordination by federal, state and local agencies, particularly on Christmas Day, has shown once again the sacrifice our nation’s law enforcement make to keep our communities safe. If not for the quick action by the Nashville Police Department the consequences may have been much worse. I would like to thank those who have responded to this incident, as well as all law enforcement professionals across this country, for putting the lives and safety of their fellow citizens first. As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that both our federal and state law enforcement agencies have the tools and resources they need.

Establishing Kansas as the Newest Supersonic Flight Corridor Site

Last week, I was joined the announcement that the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finalized an agreement to establish the Kansas Supersonic Transportation Corridor for use in testing non-military aircraft that fly at “mach” speech or the speed of sound. With this supersonic flight corridor, Kansas will have a unique role in the next generation of supersonic transportation.

I was pleased to play a leading role in coordinating with the FAA, NASA, the Air Route Traffic Control Center and the National Institute of Aviation Research at Wichita State University. Industry forecasts show a market for as many as 300 supersonic aircraft over a 10-year period, bringing in as much as $40 billion in revenue. This generation of sophisticated aircrafts will require a deep bench of skilled manufacturing talent, and I look forward to Kansas’ leadership in developing these aircrafts and continue to affirm Wichita as the “Air Capital of the World.”

Passing Congress’ FY2021 CJS Appropriations Package

This week, Congress passed its annual government funding bill in a package with the COVID-19 federal relief bill. The legislation included many of my priorities as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS).

This fiscally responsible and bipartisan bill provides necessary resources to help law enforcement keep our communities safe, support economic development and further scientific development through NASA education, STEM education and scientific development efforts among universities like the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Wichita State University. At a time when there were calls to defund the police, I am especially pleased to have secured increased resources for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to support programs for state and local law enforcement in Kansas and across the nation, including training and community-based crime prevention, as well as funding for victim service providers and grant programs that will aid small law enforcement agencies in rural areas.

I will continue working to secure resources for these important federal programs and priorities that will allow the agencies within our jurisdiction to accomplish their missions and address the needs of our country.

Ensuring Protections for Senior Citizens This Holiday Season

This week, I sent a letter to the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Joseph Simons to learn what procedures the FTC is implementing to protect seniors from holiday related scams. Far too often our seniors are targeted by those who wish to deceive them for false financial gain. Every year, scam artists prey on senior citizens, resulting in financial losses between $2 billion and $12 billion. Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic and holiday season, criminal scammers are preying on people’s fear and generosity to take advantage of our most vulnerable population.

Recent reports have indicated these criminals are using scams to solicit donations to fake charities, as well as falsely offering immediate coronavirus vaccination to seniors eager to spend the holidays with family. During this time of increased fear and uncertainty, we must protect our elderly citizens from those who wish to capitalize on this pandemic by defrauding the public. As chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, I will remain vigilant in ensuring the FTC is fulfilling its responsibility to protect seniors from all scams.

Visiting Schilling Air Force Base’s Toxic Substances Cleanup Efforts

This week, I visited the Salina Regional Airport to tour the site of the former Schilling Air Force Base. I met with local leaders to discuss the environmental contamination that was left behind by the military base. In June, after years of negotiation and mediation, the federal government agreed to pay $65.9 million to clean up this contamination. I have fought for Salina to receive the federal support that it is owed for the past 14 years and will continue to support Kansans who have been impacted by these harmful substances.

Schilling AFB was built in 1942 and was used to train heavy bomber crews for the U.S. Army’s Air Force. It was later named Smoky Hill Air Force Base when the U.S. Air Force was established. It was renamed Schilling Air Force Base in 1957 and was in use until 1966, when the base was deactivated and the property was transferred to Salina. The city of Salina later discovered that military activities from the former base left the soil and groundwater contaminated. The contaminated plumes, which were comprised of chemicals known as TCE and PFAS, were seeping toward the city’s groundwater supply and required timely action from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. I worked closely with the Salina Airport Authority to force the Army Corps of Engineers to come to the table and negotiate a final solution that was beneficial for Kansans.

I want to congratulate the Salina Public Entities on this agreement and look forward to seeing its progress to help remove harmful substances at Schilling Air Force base and keep the community safe for future generations.

Textron-built Aircraft Delivered to NOAA for Specialized Mission

As the chairman of Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, I oversee funds for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and am pleased to share that its Office of Marine & Aviation Operations (OMAO) has received the Beechcraft King Air 350 CER turboprop aircraft. The twin-engine aircraft was built at Textron Aviation’s factory and instrumented by Avcon Industries in Wichita as part of an $11.8 million contract to Textron Aviation, Inc.

This aircraft joins NOAA’s fleet of specialized environmental data-gathering aircrafts that strengthen the agency’s response in emergency missions and aerial survey efforts. The Beechcraft King Air 350 CER aircraft will be used for photographic surveys after tornadoes, earthquakes, oil spills, blizzards, floods, and hurricanes.

Visiting with Hays Rotary

This week, I had the opportunity to speak virtually with the Hays Rotary Club. We discussed the COVID-19 relief bill that passed through the House and Senate before it passed through the House and Senate on Monday night. While this targeted relief package should have been completed months ago, it will now help provide needed aid to small businesses, health care workers and families that have been hit hardest by this pandemic.

We also discussed the importance of rural broadband across the state, as access to high-speed internet in rural areas is critical to community health, especially as many Kansans have turned to teleworking throughout the pandemic. Thank you to Kay Werth for organizing this meeting and to all Rotarians who joined.

Remembering Bob Pivonka

This week, Bob Pivonka, a veteran and dedicated public servant, was laid to rest. Bob served as Larned mayor for ten years, and we worked together to keep the Pawnee Valley Community Hospital open and continue offering quality health care services to local residents. Bob’s legacy will live on for years to come as the community he cared will benefit from his service and commitment to doing the right thing. Robba and I are praying for his friends and family during this time.

Read more about Bob’s life here.

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 form of 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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