Kansas Common Sense
Jun 29 2020
Help Stop the Spread of COVID-19
As Kansas safely reopens, 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, including wearing a mask in public spaces and social distancing by staying six feet apart from people outside our homes. This also includes measures such as washing our hands regularly, avoiding touching our face, sneezing or coughing into a tissue or the inside of our elbow and disinfecting frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.
Federal Relief Reaches All 105 Kansas Counties
The Kansas State Finance Council approved a plan to distribute $400 million in federal resources for COVID-19 to Kansas counties, allowing each county to use the funding to tackle specific challenges and needs. Congress passed the CARES Act to provide relief and help support local governments with the resources they need to safely reopen our economy, and I am pleased to see this relief reaching Kansas communities.
The state’s Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Taskforce developed the plan to distribute the funding, and the first wave will be used for health-related expenses to aid in preventing the spread of the virus, support local health care providers and more. With the distribution of these funds, all 105 of Kansas’ county governments will have received federal dollars to help them navigate the challenges of COVID-19.
The funding will be distributed to counties based on population with additional aid going to counties that were hit harder by the virus and suffered the highest unemployment rates.
To view the funding level for your county, please click here.
Protecting Federal Monuments
I am pleased that President Trump signed an Executive Order to bolster protections for federal monuments, memorials and statues being unlawfully destroyed or vandalized. Peaceful protests calling for the removal of statues or monuments are protected under the Constitution, but destroying or vandalizing them is a crime. The federal government will assist with protecting federal monuments and property all across the country, and anyone who intentionally damages federal property can be punished with up to 10 years in prison.
Senate Confirms 200th Trump-Appointed Judge
On Wednesday, the Senate voted to confirm Cory T. Wilson as a United States Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit, marking the 200th Senate-confirmed judge during the Trump Administration. As a member of the U.S. Senate, I have the responsibility to evaluate and confirm judges who will uphold the Constitution, deliver justice and preserve our freedoms. My colleagues and I have worked diligently with the president and the administration to fill judicial vacancies across the country, and today, the Senate achieved a historic milestone by confirming more judges at this point of a presidency than any presidency in the last 40 years. These judges, including Judges Broomes and Judge Teeter serving in Kansas, will have a generational impact on our country.
Discussing the 9-8-8 Suicide Hotline with Chairman Pai
On Wednesday, as a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, I questioned Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and the other commissioners about broadband mapping, the Keep Americans Connected Pledge and progress the FCC is making on designating 9-8-8 to be a national suicide and mental health crisis hotline. From 1999 to 2018, the national suicide rate increased 35 percent. During that same time period in Kansas, the suicide rate increased by approximately 70 percent, making the issue of quick access to mental health tools critical.
To address this important issue, last year, I introduced the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which would designate a three-digit phone number as a national suicide prevention and mental health hotline. This bill has passed the Senate and is awaiting a vote in the House. Concurrently, the FCC is working on a rule to designate 9-8-8 as a national hotline and will be voting on the final rule on July 16. I look forward to working with the FCC to ensure that Americans have an easy-to-remember and easy-to-access service when they need a helping hand.
Insisting Long-Distance Service On Amtrak Continues
Last week, I arranged the opportunity to speak with Amtrak President and CEO William Flynn on the importance of long-distance passenger service to rural America. Amtrak recently announced they would be scaling back service across the Amtrak network, including long-distance passenger routes like the Southwest Chief. I was pleased to hear this change is in sole response to the pandemic but have requested further information on when service will be ultimately restored and what metrics will be used in this determination. Mr. Flynn relayed his commitment to long-distance passenger routes, and I look forward to continuing our work together to ensure the success of the Southwest Chief for years to come.
Kansas City Area Receives EDA Grant
The U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded $400,000 from the CARES Act to the Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City.
As Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, I will continue to support the ongoing and critical mission of the EDA to assist the economic activity of our communities, especially in unprecedented times like we find ourselves in today. This grant invests resources into the Kansas City area to rebuild the economy, reopen businesses and help those out of work receive the training and skills they need to find meaningful employment.
Meeting with the National Biodiesel Board
On Friday, I spoke with the National Biodiesel Board about the Renewable Fuel Standard, trade, and the effect coronavirus is having on the renewable fuel industry. Since the beginning of the coronavirus emergency the renewable fuel industry, including ethanol plants, have suffered due to the decreased amount of travel in the United States. This has led to a number of ethanol plants across the country being idle, which has a negative effect on the farmers who sell their products to ethanol producers. The Phase III coronavirus relief package, the CARES Act, included $23.5 billion to help farmers and ranchers who have been negatively affected by the pandemic. I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to find ways to support the renewable fuel industry in Kansas during this challenging time.
Installing New Iola Rotary Club Officers
At the end of the week, I joined the Iola Rotary Club to speak on the federal response to COVID-19 and install their new officers. I gave an update regarding the Paycheck Protection Program, support for hospitals and health care providers, the continuation of school meal programs, progress on a COVID-19 vaccine and my many conversations with community leaders across Kansas. I also spoke about the importance of U.S. manufacturing and not being reliant on other countries for medical supplies critical to American lives, and answered questions regarding the importance of telehealth services.
I want to thank Rotary President Judy Brigham for the invitation and for allowing me to install the new club officers, as well as County Commissioner Jerry Daniels and Iola Mayor Jon Wells for attending. Rotary clubs play an important role in so many communities, and I was glad to be able to see firsthand the art donations this club has made to the local performing arts center when I visited the Bowlus Fine Arts Center later in the afternoon.
I also want to thank Larry Manes, city of Moran resident, for presenting me with a t-shirt with the city of Moran coordinates (pictured below).
Touring the Bowlus Fine Arts Center
Following Rotary, I visited the Bowlus Fine Arts Center and received an informative tour from Executive Director Daniel Kays, where he showed me the many items the Iola Rotary Club has donated. This center plays an important role in providing enriching cultural experiences to the surrounding communities and is supported by local funding and private donors.
In May, I urged Senate leadership to consider the challenges facing live event venues and provide appropriate relief to make certain venues that contribute to the social, cultural and economic fabric of our communities can survive these challenging times.
Toured and Discussed Food Service and Return to Classrooms in Wamego
On Friday, I joined Wamego School District to see their school lunch delivery program and to thank the many volunteers that continue to make certain students in the area are receiving nutritious meals. USD 320 transitioned their school lunch program service to drive thru after schools closed earlier this spring and have now begun their summer program. This distribution site hands out approximately 500 meals each day and helps make certain local students’ nutritional needs are met. We also discussed the district’s plans and precautions they will take when students return to the class room this fall. Thank you to USD Superintendent Tim Winters and Food Services Director Laura Fails for the invitation and for joining me.
I also want to send a special congratulations to the Wamego High School Class of 2020 following their graduation ceremony held over the weekend.
Speaking with McPherson Community Leaders
On Tuesday, I hosted leaders from the McPherson community for a virtual meeting where I received updates from local officials and industry representatives. I heard from a local lender who provided great examples of how the Paycheck Protection Program helped keep people employed in the community. An overwhelming number of McPherson businesses were able to apply for relief, which has allowed them to keep their lights on during this pandemic. McPherson College President Michael Schneider also explained how students and faculty adapted during COVID-19 and how they plan to utilize hybrid learning methods in the fall. It was great to hear how the McPherson community has pulled together to support one another, and I appreciated the update. Thank you to Mayor Tom Brown, State Senator Rick Wilborn, State Representative Les Mason and our multiple industry leaders for joining the discussion.
Stopping by Woodson County Courthouse
While in southeast Kansas, I checked in with the folks at the Woodson County Courthouse, and we chatted from a safe social distance. I want to thank them for sharing their thoughts and ideas with me.
Discussing Harvest in Chapman
On Friday, I spent time in Chapman with farmers at the Agri Trails Coop where I was able to hear firsthand how harvest is going. It was great to get an update and hear cutting is farther along than last year due to more dry days.
Thank you to all our farmers across the state putting in long hours this harvest season.
Uncasing the 79th Battalion
Congratulations to the men and women of the 79th Explosive Ordinance Disposal Battalion, who have recently arrived at Fort Riley from Fort Hood. Their Uncasing of the Colors ceremony, during which their unit’s flag is unfurled, was held Friday. Fort Riley makes certain our soldiers are fully equipped and ready to face any mission, and I will continue to showcase their excellence to Army leadership in an effort to bring additional units to Kansas.
I was pleased to hear from Fort Riley’s Commanding General John Kolasheski that the ceremony, while small due to COVID-19, went well. Pictured below is Battalion Commander Aaron Teller with the unit’s colors.
Remembering Carl Brewer
Mayor Carl Brewer served the city of Wichita for more than a decade on both the Wichita City Council and as mayor, and I was saddened to hear of his passing. This weekend, a memorial service was held for Carl at Holy Savior Catholic Church.
Carl started his career in aviation manufacturing, and as mayor, he was a strong advocate for Wichita’s place as Air Capital of the World and was instrumental in the development of Eisenhower National Airport. As the city’s first elected African-American mayor, Carl was a leader for the black community both in Wichita and throughout Kansas. I enjoyed working alongside Carl and admired his dedication to the community he served. I am honored to have known Carl and to call him a friend. Robba and I are praying for his family and the Wichita community.
Photo from Washington, D.C.
I am thankful every day to work on behalf of Kansans in our nation’s capital, and I often reflect on the sacrifices of the brave men and women who have preserved our freedoms throughout generations.
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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