Over the last three months we have faced many challenges responding to the worst public health crisis in a century. As we saw the COVID-19 virus spread its way around the world, Governor Kelly took action to enforce strict social distancing, including being the first state to close schools and began working alongside healthcare professionals, educators and our emergency responders to ensure we could support Kansans who were dealing with the impacts of this pandemic.
While the last few months have been extraordinarily difficult for families, businesses, and communities across the state, they have shined a light on the collective strength of Kansans to protect their neighbors and loved ones by following health guidelines and staying home.
As expected, we have faced hurdles as we worked to address both the safety of Kansans and the economic impact of COVID-19. Notably, the state’s outdated unemployment system, which was unprepared for 50,000+ weekly unemployment claims.
Fortunately in late March, Governor Kelly moved to sign three bipartisan bills that extended unemployment insurance benefits, expanded education waiver authority and expanded authority of the judicial branch extending deadlines. We suspended utility disconnects because Kansans shouldn’t have to worry about keeping the lights on during the pandemic. We also prohibited evictions and foreclosures — because our administration is committed to doing everything it can to make sure Kansans can stay in their homes and businesses.
Governor Kelly made sure each effort our administration took was targeted at providing relief for Kansans experiencing hardships, protecting the health of our neighbors, and making sure our state could continue to function as we distanced ourselves from one another. I have no doubt that the Governor’s decisive and early action saved lives.
In times of crisis, it is critical for the state government to work as a team to protect the lives of the many. The novel coronavirus does not discriminate. Whether you vote blue or red, whether you live in rural or urban Kansas, it doesn’t matter. That’s why Governor Kelly worked across party lines to pass a legislative compromise that would give her the power to immediately distribute federal resources to the Kansans and communities who needed them the most.
The Governor also joined weekly calls with the President to alert him to the issues that we were facing as a state. Even though they have vast political differences, she went to see him at the end of last month, to urge him to help Kansas get the support and resources we needed.
Fast forward to today. Our state has the equipment and supplies it needs. In addition, we have seen a drastic increase in the availability of labs to run tests across our state. Last week Governor Kelly announced that the state could move into Phase Three of our administration’s Ad Astra plan to reopen the economy.
Just as Governor Kelly took measured and decisive action during this pandemic, she will do the same to put us back on track. COVID-19 has made life difficult for so many in our state. Every lost job, graduation missed, and loved one who got sick, tested our resilience and threatened to drive us apart. But Kansas has once again, risen to the occasion and confronted these enormous challenges. Now it’s critical that we stay focused on our careful, guarded path to economic recovery, so that these efforts will not have been in vain. Let’s continue working together to support all Kansans — even if it’s from 6 feet apart.