As Kansans begin to deal with the impact of the economic situation before them, it is important for local government to guide citizens to available assistance. I am writing to highlight some of the programs and initiatives that are being offered to help individuals who are out of work, and to businesses that are struggling through this unprecedented pandemic.


Commerce Secretary David Toland of the Kansas Department of Commerce recently participated in an online meeting of more than 70 local citizens, business leaders and elected officials. During the meeting the secretary outlined the following government programs available to provide aid.


HIRE program


On March 20, the HIRE program was announced to support the hospitality industry during the COVID-19 outbreak. Five million dollars was set aside to promote continuity of operations in the hospitality, food service and event industry. Within the first 24 hours, the entire $5 million was exhausted with individual awards made to 346 businesses. Applications far exceeded available funding and unfortunately there were 1,200 applicants that could not be funded. The secretary urged local businesses in the hospitality industry to continue to apply for the program in the event additional funding sources become available. All individuals attending the meeting were fully aware that this segment of the Kansas economy has been hugely affected by recent events.


SBA


The state of Kansas was approved as a disaster state which allows businesses to apply for the Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). This loan allows for direct payment to affected businesses and loans to help maintain cash flow for business operation. To apply you can call their customer service line at 800-659-2955 or email them disastercustomerservice@sba.gov


You can also go to https://www.kansascommerce.gov to use the online chat service which will be available soon.


CARES Act


The enormous $2 trillion federal stimulus program titled the CARES Act is part of the economic stimulus plan, with funding being made available rapidly. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) provides the states direct funding, with small states like Kansas slated to receive $1.25 billion for coronavirus related expenses. The specific areas where this money will be expended have yet to be determined, but certainly those of us in local government are hopeful that a portion can be used to offset some of the expected shortfalls upon local budgets.


Ten million dollars in the CARES Act will be allocated for minority business development. The CARES Act also includes $75 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, with 40% of that total being allocated to state arts commissions. In Kansas, that is the Kansas Creative Arts and Industries Commission.


The CARES Act waives the personal guarantee requirement on advances and loans below $200,000, removes the requirement that an applicant must have been in business for one year and removes the requirement that the business must first seek financing elsewhere before making application with the SBA.


In addition, $350 billion has been allocated for loans that provide working capital to small businesses and a tax credit for retaining employees worth up to 50% of the wages paid for businesses that have been forced to suspend operations or seen gross receipts fall by 50% or more during the crisis. A delay of the federal payroll tax for employers was approved, with half due by the end of 2021 and the other half due by the end of 2022.


Unemployment insurance


The federal government has made a major change to unemployment allowing payment of an additional $600 per week for four months longer than is normally allowed. An expansion of benefits to self-employed and contract workers was also included.


These are just a few of the programs that are being offered to help those in need at this time. Private agencies, faith-based groups and other organizations are also available to provide food and other resources.


Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions or need guidance with these or other programs. Please know that we are committed to seeing that the economy gets moving forward as soon as possible. We also want you and your family to be safe during this extraordinary situation. I can be reached at 913-775-2772 or by email at mstieben@leavenworthcounty.gov


Leavenworth County Commissioner Mike Stieben represents the 5th District.