Martin de Boer
Entities in Kansas are estimated to receive over $30.5 billion in federal relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic through legislation that includes the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) of 2020, and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021. This relief is provided through three means:
- Large discretionary funds provided to state and local governments;
- Non-discretionary emergency or supplemental funds provided to state agencies; and
- Funds provided by federal agencies directly to individuals and businesses, primarily as stimulus checks and loans.
Coronavirus Relief Fund
The CARES Act allocated a total of $1.3 billion from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) to state and local governments in Kansas to aid in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of this, $1.0 billion was provided to state government and $215.9 million was provided directly to Johnson and Sedgwick counties.
Federal guidance stipulated that CRF moneys be used only for expenditures related to the pandemic, could not be used to fill revenue shortfalls, and must be expended by December 31, 2021.
In May 2020, the Governor established the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Task Force to make recommendations regarding the CRF, subject to approval by the State Finance Council. CRF moneys were allocated in three rounds:
- Round 1 distributed $400.0 million to county governments, where funds were primarily used for public health measures, transfers to city governments, and assistance to schools;
- Round 2 distributed $314.4 million to state agencies for programs involving broadband, small business grants, nursing home assistance, behavioral health grants, laboratory testing capacity, and early childhood eduction; and
- Round 3 allocated the balance of the fund primarily for a statewide COVID-19 testing strategy, child supervision, housing stability, unemployment insurance administration, and continuity of operations among various state agencies.
Additionally, the State Finance Council passed a resolution directing the transfer of any unspent remaining funds to the Kansas Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund.
State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds
ARPA allocated a total of $2.6 billion from state and local Fiscal Recovery Funds to state and local governments in Kansas. In contrast to the CRF, ARPA expanded the purpose of these funds, included new restrictions, and appropriated funds directly to state, county and city governments. These appropriations included:
- $1.6 billion directly to state government;
- $564.9 million directly to 105 county governments;
- $260.3 million directly to 10 metropolitan cities; and
- $167.3 million indirectly to 581 Non-Entitlement Units (NEUs), which are generally cities with a population below 50,000.
Moneys from Fiscal Recovery Funds are permitted for the following purposes:
Responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency or its economic impact;
Providing premium pay to eligible government workers performing essential work;
Replacing revenue lost due to the COVID-19 public health emergency; and
Making investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.
Fiscal Recovery Funds may not be used for pension funds, debt services, or to offset tax cuts enacted after March 3, 2021. Funds must be expended by December 31, 2026.
As of September 2021, allocations from the State Fiscal Recovery Fund include:
- $500.0 million for the Kansas UI Trust Fund, pursuant to 2021 HB 2196; and
- $50.0 million for the Hospital Employee Retention Plan, as recommended by the SPARK Task Force and approved by the State Finance Council.
State agencies received $3.5 billion in emergency or supplemental federal relief for defined purposes. The largest of these included:
- $1.4 billion to the Kansas Department of Education, including $1.2 billion from the federal Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER);
- $622.6 million to the Department for Children and Families; and
- $531.3 million to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Direct Relief to Individuals and Businesses
An estimated $22.0 billion was provided to individuals and businesses in Kansas, which primarily included:
- $7.2 billion in stimulus checks;
- $5.0 billion in low-interest forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection program;
- $2.1 billion in federal unemployment benefits;
- $1.6 billion in payments to agricultural producers; and
- $1.3 billion to health care providers and community health centers.