Kansas Common Sense
Apr 06 2020
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.
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 that 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.
Have Questions About COVID-19 Relief Programs?
Over the past week, there have been many questions about how to access federal relief for three main programs: the direct relief payments to families, unemployment insurance and U.S. Small Business Administration loans. Please click here to find sections for each of these issues with frequently asked questions and answers.
Phase III Resources
On Thursday, I spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the country’s top medical expert on COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci. We discussed the implementation of Phase III for both the health care and economic relief effort in Kansas.
I will continue to stress that Kansans need relief now and that this is not the time for government to move slowly. Every day matters.
Connecting with Kansans
This week, I sat down with Jacob Albracht at KWCH 12 Eyewitness News (from a safe social distance) to discuss a number of issues regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. We talked about the support the CARES Act provides to our health care workers and providers, as well as the relief to individuals and families, small businesses and ag community. Watch the full interview here.
Small Business Owners: Apply now for the Paycheck Protection Program
Applications are now open for the Paycheck Protection Program to provide financial relief to small businesses during COVID-19. The CARES Act allocated $350 billion to help small businesses keep workers employed amid the pandemic and economic downturn. Known as the Paycheck Protection Program under the SBA’s 7(a) loan program, the initiative provides 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to small businesses who maintain their payroll during this emergency. These loans may be forgiven based on a formula if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the pandemic or restore their payrolls afterward.
Beware of Scammers
Don’t fall prey to scammers who will try and use our national crisis to their advantage. The IRS is not going to call, text or email you for personal or financial information regarding COVID-19 related relief checks. If you have questions regarding a suspicious call or inquiry, please click here for more information.
Discussing Relief to the Agriculture Community with KFB
I joined a video conference with Kansas Farm Bureau President Rich Felts and the Board of Directors to discuss relief for the agricultural community, including livestock producers, in the Phase III relief effort. We also discussed the importance of rural broadband, which has been heightened by the increased reliance on technology for communication during COVID-19.
Hearing from Hays Area Leaders
On Sunday evening, I hosted a video conference with Hays-area leaders to gather information, questions and concerns. We also discussed mental health and the coordination between city, county and state officials, local businesses and higher education institutions during COVID-19. Thank you to Kansas Senator Rick Billinger and Representative Barb Wasinger, Ellis County Commission Chair Dean Haselhorst, Mayor Shaun Musil, USD 489 Superintendent Ron Wilson and FHSU President Tisa Mason for taking time out of their Sunday evening to speak with me.
Additional Phone Conversations on COVID-19
Governor Kelly: This week, I spoke with Governor Laura Kelly to discuss the state of Kansas hospitals and what needs to be done at both the state and federal level to keep them afloat during COVID-19. I will continue working with Gov. Kelly and her administration to make certain Kansas continues receiving the support needed during these difficult times.
CDC Director: On Saturday morning, I spoke with CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield regarding testing for COVID-19 and how local health providers, such as county hospitals and health departments, will continue to be extremely vital as we combat this virus. We both agree testing is one of the most important tools we have in beating COVID-19, and it was good to hear an update of how they are working to make testing more accessible across the country.
Kansas Bankers Association: On Thursday, I joined the Kansas Bankers Association conference call that addressed the implementation of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) passed into law in the Phase III relief legislation. Over 400 bankers joined the call to voice their questions and concerns to the SBA Regional Director for Kansas Wayne Bell and the financial regulators responsible for implementing and overseeing the loan program. Over the coming weeks, small business owners across the country will be able to apply for a forgivable loan to cover the payroll costs that have grown as a result of the disruption the COVID-19 outbreak has caused. I will continue to work with the SBA and financial regulators to ensure the dollars awarded through the CARES Act get to the small business owners who have been affected.
White House: On Tuesday, I spoke with the White House Liaison for the U.S. Small Business Administration Amy Swonger. I communicated to her the importance of making sure the relief provided in Phase III for small businesses is made available quickly, as each day business owners have to make decisions about their operations. I was pleased to see the SBA Loan program applications open Friday, meaning relief is on its way to Kansas businesses.
Secretary Perdue: On Thursday, I spoke with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue about issues facing our farmers and ranchers in Kansas during the COVID-19 outbreak, especially the financial impact of market volatility on cattle producers. In the Phase III COVID-19 package, I helped secure funds for USDA to support cattle producers across the country that are suffering economic losses due to the ongoing emergency. Following up on my letter to Secretary Perdue urging USDA to make these emergency payments to producers, I told Secretary Perdue on our call that the funds should be dispersed quickly, benefit both cow-calf and feeder cattle producers and avoid unnecessarily intruding into the markets or influencing marketing decisions. I also asked for an update on the investigation into cattle markets that began last year after the fire at the Tyson plant in Holcomb.
We also discussed the progress that has been made at the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan. Once operational, NBAF will be a critical tool for the United States to help deal with zoonotic disease outbreaks similar to COVID-19. I appreciated the opportunity to discuss with Secretary Perdue the well-being of Kansas producers during the COVID-19 outbreak, and will continue to work with him to ensure that the rural and ag economy receives the necessary resources during this emergency.
VA Officials: This week, I had the opportunity to speak directly with leaders of the Veterans Health Administration and Veterans Benefits Administration. I was pleased to hear that Dr. Paul Lawrence, Under Secretary for Benefits, has been working with the Treasury Department to provide veteran beneficiary data in the hopes that veterans who qualify for a $1,200 Recovery Rebate under the CARES Act will not be required to file a tax return to receive the stimulus payment. I am glad VA is committed to working as quickly as possible to disburse economic stimulus payments directly to qualifying veterans. In addition, leveraging existing resources and data with the IRS will reduce bureaucratic hurdles for our veterans and get them the needed Phase III relief money faster.
I was also pleased to discuss VA’s plans for continuing the roll out of the Veterans Community Care Program with Dr. Richard Stone, Executive in Charge of the Veterans Health Administration. Now more than ever, it is critical that veterans have options to receive needed care close to home and in a safe environment. VA has taken a number of steps to limit elective procedures and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in its medical centers. VA has committed to continue its referrals to the Community Care Networks where providers are available so that veterans may receive the care they need while minimizing the need for social contact.
Aerospace Industries Association: This weekend, I spoke with the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) CEO Eric Fanning about Kansas aviation jobs and workforce retention. AIA represents the interests of hundreds of companies that interact with aerospace, so we also discussed creating certainty for their manufacturers that want to assist in producing needed items, such as PPE, during COVID-19 for our country.
Kansas Leaders: I continue to contact leaders from across the state each week regarding the situation we are facing, from health care facilities CEOs to Chamber of Commerce presidents to local business owners and to every day Kansans. As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, I am committed to hearing what Kansans are experiencing first hand. Thank you to Manhattan Via Christi President Bob Copple, Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas CEO Krista Postai, Labette Health CEO Brian Williams, GraceMed Health Clinic’s Martha McCabe, Cowley County Community Health Center CEO David Brazil, Dr. Sam Caughron of MAWD Pathology Group, WATCO Executive Chairman Rick Webb, Kansas Livestock Association CEO Matt Teagarden, Newton Medical Center CEO Val Gleason, Kansas Hospital Association CEO Tom Bell, Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce President Blake Benson, Cerner’s Mark Elkins, Equity Bank CEO Brad Elliot, The University of Kansas Health System VP for Government and Community Affairs Kenny Wilk and AMC CEO Adam Aron for taking the time to speak with me this week.
Urging Support for Rural Health Providers
I joined 40 of my Senate colleagues and 81 House members in a bicameral letter calling on Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to provide immediate assistance to rural hospitals and clinics by using resources included in the recently passed Phase III relief effort to sustain rural health providers. The vast majority of rural hospitals have ceased performing elective procedures and seeing non-urgent patients. The COVID-19 pandemic must take precedence, but these actions threaten rural hospitals’ financial viability. Congress provided the resources and flexibility, but Sec. Azar and the administration must respond appropriately to sustain rural providers.
Extending VA Disability Filing Claims during COVID-19
On Tuesday I, along with Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.), sent a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie urging the department to take action under existing regulatory authority to protect vulnerable veterans who cannot file the necessary paperwork for their claims and appeals during the national emergency. I was pleased President Trump announced an extension of VA benefits filing deadlines, as well as suspensions for VA debt collections, during his COVID-19 press conference Thursday evening. I appreciate President Trump taking action in the best interest of veterans and look forward to continue working with the president and Secretary Wilkie to make certain veterans are not overly burdened in accessing their earned benefits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Asking the DOD to Mobilize National Guard Under Proper Federal Orders
On Wednesday, Ranking Member Tester (D-Mont.) and I also sen a letter to Department of Defense Secretary Mark Esper urging him to work with states to mobilize all National Guard members responding to COVID-19 under the appropriate federal Title 32 duty status. By not placing the National Guard under the proper federal active duty orders, these men and women who are answering the call to serve will not be eligible for certain benefits (including TRICARE coverage) and will not be eligible for most VA benefits after their service. The brave men and women of the National Guard are answering the call to serve during this health crisis, and I strongly believe they should receive the same care and benefits as the rest of our military responding to this crisis. The National Guard needs to be put on the correct federal title 32 orders, and I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Esper and the president to ensure that this happens. The National Guard, who are “Always Ready, Always There!” deserve no less.
2020 Census Reminder
April 1 was Census Day, but it’s not too late to complete the 2020 Census! Your response to the 2020 Census matters, and the results can shape many different aspects of your community over the next decade. When filling out the Census, you should respond with information about your residence on April 1, 2020. Learn more or take the census online at 2020census.gov.
Thanks to Kansans During COVID-19
There are many challenges across Kansas right now, and people are pulling together to try to make the best of a difficult circumstance. Within our state, there are many people that must continue showing up to work, at risk to themselves, to meet the needs to others. The list is long and it is impossible to capture them all in a single list, but I want to extend my sincerest thanks to each one of you for the sacrifices you are making and the care and concern you are demonstrating for others. From the health care workers fighting on the frontlines to public servants making certain utilities stay on to those in the supply chain making sure groceries are available – thank you for taking care of others.
Watch my full message to Kansans 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 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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