Kansas Gov. Kelly signs budget with $65 million for COVID-19 response

Posted at 6:56 PM, Mar 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 19:56:45-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly signed off on the state’s budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year Wednesday without a single line-item veto then praised the legislature’s efforts.

The Kansas budget includes $65 million in spending related to managing the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I appreciate the bipartisan work of lawmakers to approve a budget swiftly in the midst of an unprecedented global public health pandemic,” Kelly said in a statement.

She also warned that budget restraint will be required during the annual wrap-up session next month after the legislature’s budget drew an additional $100 million from the state’s general find than she recommended in January, not including expenses related to the novel coronavirus.

“Practically overnight, the coronavirus pandemic caused upheaval in the stock market, shuttered businesses, disrupted supply chains, and cast uncertainty on our economic future,” Kelly said. “We’ve never experienced anything this sudden and severe in our lifetimes. As we get a handle on our new reality, I urge the Legislature to join me in showing fiscal restraint when they return for the annual wrap up session. It is critical that we act with utmost caution until we get a better sense of what the true budget implications of coronavirus will be.”

It’s been a busy week for Kelly, who earlier in the week issued a series of executive orders related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Kelly previously ordered all Kansas schools to close through the rest of the academic year and tightened guidelines on public gatherings from a limit of 50 people to a limit of 10, which is in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.

On Monday, Kelly issued four executive orders, including a previously announced mandate to halt foreclosures and evictions statewide in cases where the homeowner or renter’s financial hardship is caused directly or indirectly by the COVID-19 outbreak.

She also forbid all trash and recycling service providers in the state from canceling or suspending commercial and residential service as a result of nonpayment in cases where income was lost or expenses increased due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Finally, Kelly extended all deadlines for driver’s license and vehicle registration renewals indefinitely. All renewals must be completed within 60 days of the executive order’s expiration, whenever that ends up being.

The tax-filing deadline in Kansas also has been extended three months to July 15 with all penalties and interest payments waived during that time. The IRS previously announced a three-month deadline extension for federal taxes.

“The safety and well-being of Kansans is my top priority,” Kelly said. “During these trying times we need essential services to continue to function to secure our public safety and health. We also need some leniency when it comes to deadlines. These executive orders are necessary steps to help Kansas families during this crisis.”

Additionally, the Kansas WIC Program is waiving its requirement for recipients to be physically present to receive services.

WIC is a nutrition program for low-income pregnant women and children under the age of 5 funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

All current WIC participants will continue to receive benefits and new applicants will be processed remotely while state offices are operating under emergency conditions.

The waiver, which will be in place through at least May 31, applies to areas impacted by WIC clinic closures or those under quarantine.