Kansas Common Sense
Mar 23 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.
As we continue to monitor the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the administration, Congress and state and local governments are working together to make certain we are do everything in our power to stop the spread of this virus. Please take precautions to keep you and your families safe, and please call your doctor about testing for COVID-19 if you are experiencing symptoms related to the coronavirus. These are difficult and challenging times, and no one is left unaffected. We are taking this threat seriously, and we will continue to face this crisis head-on as a nation.
Live News Conference with The University of Kansas Health System
This evening, I joined The University of Kansas Health System for a virtual news conference regarding COVID-19.
Thank you to Tammy Peterman, Chief Operating Officer, The University of Kansas Health System; Steve Stites, MD, Chief Medical Officer, The University of Kansas Health System; and Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Lee Norman for providing an update regarding COVID-19 in Kansas. To watch the full press conference, please click here or on the image below.
Thank you to Kansans
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 healthcare 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.
Working to Get Test Kits and Medical Supplies to Kansas
We need to make certain that our healthcare providers have the necessary tools to meet the healthcare needs of American citizens – the main tool is testing. The U.S. is currently behind where we need to be in terms of producing and distributing test kits so that everyone who suspects they have contracted COVID-19 can be tested. These shortages are being felt in Kansas.
I have been working with our federal agencies, including CDC, FDA and HHS to increase the amount of test kits being manufactured and sent out to help alleviate the current shortage that is causing such difficulties for tracking coronavirus. I have also engaged a number of major medical manufacturers who have recently been granted an Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA to begin production of their own developed testing kits that comply with CDC and FDA requirements. With many of the major manufacturers now producing test kits, we should see supply starting to meet demand in the coming weeks. I have also been encouraged by the outreach I have received from Kansas companies and manufacturers who are willing to do what is necessary to contribute to these solutions.
In addition, the initial difficulties by our federal agencies to develop and produce an accurate test have been made more serious by the rapid spread of coronavirus across our country. This week, President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to mobilize the full manufacturing might of the United States to address the shortages we currently face. These companies will increase the amount of tests available in the near future, which will allow our health agencies and medical providers to have increased access to tests. Simultaneously, a shortage of personal protective equipment and ventilators is a quickly approaching reality for our healthcare providers on the frontlines, and we must pursue all available options to increase the manufacturing of these items.
I am also working to make certain Kansas can further access government supplies, including the Strategic National Stockpile of HHS and the CDC’s current approach to allotment of their own testing kits to state health departments. I will continue to advocate at the federal level and leverage my office to get Kansans the supplies needed to defend against the coronavirus.
Speaking on the Floor Regarding COVID-19
On Wednesday, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, phase two of the coronavirus relief efforts by Congress, passed the Senate. That evening, I spoke on the Senate floor to share my thoughts and concerns regarding coronavirus, its impact on Kansas and concerns I had with the relief effort legislation.
The Families First Coronavirus Reponse Act included provisions that I was troubled by and I believe will create difficulties for some. We need to continue our work to change those provisions that are troublesome and cause problems, but it was important to make certain that the things that were wrong in the relief bill didn’t prevent us from passing something to help those with the things that are right. None of our economic efforts that we make – so that people feel more secure economically – will work until they feel more secure in their health and the wellbeing of themselves and their families.
On the Senate floor, I sit at the same desk as Senator Dole and I stand in the same spot where Senator McCain’s desk used to be – two people who demonstrated the desire and passion to work together during our countries most challenging times. My mission in my remarks today was to ask my Republican colleagues and my Democrat colleagues to set aside the usual bickering and political posturing that takes place in the United States Congress. No American can feel well, no American can feel that things are going to be okay if they don’t see leadership and cooperation among us.
Watch my full remarks on the Senate floor by clicking here.
Legislative Fix for Student Veterans Signed into Law by President Trump
On Saturday, President Trump signed into law S.3503, legislation I introduced as the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman with Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.) to protect GI Bill benefits during the COVID-19 outbreak. This legislation will ensure that veterans, their dependents and servicemembers, who are using their GI Bill benefits, will be able to continue receiving their full tuition and monthly housing payments as universities and other approved programs move classes online to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
I’m grateful Congress and President Trump acted quickly to pass this legislation and sign it into law, making certain our veterans don’t lose their GI Bill benefits. Our country is facing uncertain times and no one is unaffected, but Congress’ quick action to move this bill to the president’s desk provides a needed certainty for student veterans, their families and the men and women still currently serving during this time.
Speaking with the Kansas Chamber
Over the course of the week, I have had conversations with businesses large and small across Kansas, and it’s clear the effects of coronavirus are impacting every corner of the economy. On Friday, I participated in a call with the Kansas Chamber, business leaders and Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) to discuss Congress’ response to COVID-19. We were able to answer questions regarding federal tax policy changes, concerns regarding businesses remaining open and what a disaster declaration from the Small Business Administration could mean for Kansas. I appreciated the chance to speak with leaders at the Kansas Chamber and business representatives from across the state to provide them with an update on the federal efforts being taken in the Senate to help businesses in Kansas and hear their input on how I can help. It’s all hands-on deck, and I appreciate the work being done by state leaders, county and local governments to try and create the best outcome for Kansans.
Urging Secretary Perdue to Make Emergency Payments to Cattle Producers
This week, I led a letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue urging him to use his authority to make emergency payments to cattle producers. It is important that we act quickly to provide assistance to cattlemen in these unprecedented times without unnecessarily intruding into the markets. I urged Secretary Perdue to use his authorities under the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act to make a one-time emergency payment to help beef cattle producers during this crisis.
On Friday morning, I joined AgriTalk radio to discuss our efforts. You can listen here, starting at the 13:20 mark.
Working to Provide Regulatory Relief to Community Banks
Earlier this week, my colleagues and I introduced the Community Bank Regulatory Relief Act. This legislation provides community banks with the regulatory relief they need to effectively function as the coronavirus continues to negatively impact small businesses and local economies. Over the coming weeks, Kansans need to be able to turn to their local banks for financial support. Lenders should not be forced to tighten their lending practices when the economy needs it the most. These two sensible measures will help free up capital to ensure community banks are able to support customers who are struggling due to the effects of coronavirus, all at no additional cost to the taxpayer.
By lowering the community bank leverage ratio (CBLR) and delaying the implementation of the Current Expected Credit Loss (CECL) accounting standard, community banks will be able to effectively provide capital to families and businesses that have found themselves in times of economic trouble. In working to recover the losses that our economy has suffered over the past two weeks, members of Congress should prioritize responsible spending to drive economic growth. These two sensible measures provide community banks the additional regulatory flexibility they need to help their customers during this time.
Extending the Tax Filing Deadline
On Monday, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announced a 90-day extension of tax liabilities that taxpayers owe from 2019. During this three month deferment, taxpayers will not be subject to penalties or interest on the money they owe to the IRS. You can read more about the Department of Treasury's announcement here.
Additionally, the Department of Treasury announced its decision to delay the filing deadline for federal income tax returns from its original due date of April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. I applaud Secretary Mnuchin’s decision to extend the deadline and provide the American taxpayers with as much flexibility and clarity as possible. You can read more about the filing extension here.
Calling for Relief to Airports
This week, I joined a bipartisan group of 39 senators to urge President Trump to work with Congress to deliver much-needed assistance to airports across the country. Airports play a key role in Kansas’ economy and our transportation capabilities across the state. COVID-19 is having a significant impact on airports of all sizes, as a sudden drop in passenger levels has led to a decline in airport revenues. As the administration considers proposals to help our nation’s airlines respond to this public health crisis, it is important sufficient resources are also available to meet the needs of our nation’s airports, especially so carriers can continue to provide service to small communities.
2020 Census Reminder
Your response to the 2020 Census matters, and the results can shape many different aspects of your community over the next decade. Your home should receive an official Census Bureau form in the mail with information on how to respond. 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.
VA’s Community Care Network Begins in Kansas
Last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) increased access to community healthcare for veterans in Kansas as it rolled out the Community Care Network (CCN) requirements of the MISSION Act. The CCN enables veterans to receive healthcare in the comfort of their community by allowing the VA to purchase care for veterans from community health providers. Given the pandemic we are currently facing and the need for urgent care, it is important that veterans have timely and convenient access to healthcare. Whether care is provided in a VA facility or through a community provider should not matter, as long as our veterans are receiving the best care that is available.
I am pleased that the VA kept its promise to veterans by continuing to implement the MISSION Act in Kansas. Although the spread of coronavirus is on the forefront of everyone’s mind, we must continue to take active steps to limit everyone’s exposure, times like these highlight the need for quality and timely healthcare. As Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I will continue to provide stringent oversight of this roll out and make certain that veterans have the access to care that was envisioned in the MISSION Act. To find out if you are eligible, please visit here. To find out if you qualify for urgent care, please visit 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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