Governor Laura Kelly today announced $50 million available for hospitals to either provide premium pay or improve retention of nursing resources and support personnel, approved by the SPARK Executive Committee. This emergency funding will provide immediate support for Kansas hospitals to manage the current COVID-19 surge and address critical shortages in nurse staffing across the state.

Qualified facilities may use the funding for either premium pay as defined in ARPA or for funding a program designed by the facility to improve the retention of nursing resources and support personnel. Premium pay may be distributed by the hospitals to frontline employees in the manner that they believe is most appropriate to ensure retention of critical resources and maintenance of staffed hospital beds.

“Many of our nurses are risking their lives every day to save Kansans from COVID-19 – and the immense strain on our hospitals is causing them to be exhausted and disheartened,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “They’re taking on extra shifts and caring for more patients than they can handle – and it’s our responsibility to give them the support they need.

“Frontline nurses need this funding to continue battling the COVID-19 surge here at home. I sincerely thank all Kansas frontline nurses and health care workers for all they do to protect our communities from the threat of COVID-19. I encourage all Kansans to do their part and get vaccinated immediately – for our health care workers, for our businesses, and for our families.”

The funding can provide frontline nurses and care workers with premium pay by increasing their hourly wages up to $13 per hour. Hospitals can apply for these State Fiscal Recovery Funds and receive funding based on their number of nursing resources, and will have discretion over how to distribute premium pay.

Additionally, hospitals will be allowed to use the funding for alternative purposes to retain staff if it meets compliance with ARPA guidance. Funding in retention programs must be spent on pay and associated benefits of qualified employees.

By October 31, 2021 and for each month thereafter, all Qualified Facilities receiving funding shall report the following to the Office of Recovery and the SPARK Committee:

  1. The number of nurses on a full-time equivalence basis staffing ICU beds and non-ICU beds as of the most recent pay period ending prior to September 15, 2021, broken out by contract nurses and employees.
  2. The number of nurses on a full-time equivalence basis staffing ICU beds and non-ICU beds as of the most recent pay period ending prior to or on October 31, 2021, broken out by contract nurses and employees.
  3. How much of the money received by the Qualified Facility has been earned under the program to date.
  4. The number of weeks the Qualified Facility has had the program in place.
  5. The number of frontline clinical employees and nurses who left the employment of the Qualified Facility during the period from June 1, 2021 to August 31, 2021.
  6. The number of frontline clinical employees and nurses who left the employment of the Qualified Facility during each month from September 1, 2021 to February 28, 2022.
  7. For any terminations of clinical frontline workers and nurses from September 1, 2021 through February 28, 2022, the number of such terminations and the reason given for all voluntary and involuntary terminations.
  8. All current Covid-related policies, such as testing policies, quarantine policies, and vaccine policies, and any changes thereto with the date such changes were announced and implemented.

Julie Glass, a nurse at Newman Regional Hospital in Emporia, posted to the hospital’s Facebook page last month: “It’s come to a point where you not only pray for your family member to not get COVID, but you pray that they don’t have any other illness or medical emergency either because there’s not enough space or staff for them to receive adequate medical care.”

Governor Kelly believes it is imperative to act now and protect the health and safety of our frontline nurses. This funding will ensure that Kansas hospitals are adequately equipped with experienced staff, rural hospitals can keep their doors open, and nurses can appropriately be compensated for their tireless and courageous work throughout this pandemic.

COVID-19 cases continue to rise across Kansas with a daily average of 1,331 new cases from August 30 to September 7 – levels not seen since January 2021. On September 10, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported 4,302 new COVID-19 cases since the last update two days prior. Hospitalizations continue to rise, with 612 hospitalized COVID patients as of September 10. This poses a challenge for hospitals to be able to provide surge support staffing and incentivize nurses to stay at their current pay rates.

More information will be provided to eligible Kansas hospitals in the coming days about how to access and properly allocate this funding to their nurses and frontline care workers.