Governor Laura Kelly today sent members of the State Finance Council a letter illustrating the importance of renewing the current State of Disaster Emergency Declaration beyond September 15, and what is at stake for Kansas if they fail to act.
Read the letter from Governor Laura Kelly:
Members of the State Finance Council,
As you are aware, during the 2020 Special Session, the Legislature extended the COVID-19 state of disaster emergency through September 15, 2020. The Legislature also provided the Finance Council the ability to approve, by a vote of six legislative members of the Council, additional 30-day extensions of the state of disaster emergency beyond September 15 if needed. Such an extension is, in fact, needed. Accordingly, I have called a meeting of the Council tomorrow, September 11, 2020, at 10:00 a.m. to extend the state of disaster emergency through October 15, 2020.
The facts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kansas are well known. More than 47,000 Kansans have tested positive, with cases in each of our 105 counties. During September, we have averaged more than twice the new cases per day our state experienced during the initial peak in May. Almost 500 Kansans have died. Unfortunately, we know more will get sick, and more will die; but we can minimize the pain and suffering this virus brings through our emergency response efforts. The emergency continues, and we must be able to deal with it effectively, as a state.
So far, our state emergency response has been essential to our efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and respond to cases and hotspots that do arise. The State Emergency Operations Center has received over 2,765 requests for emergency resources and has delivered 40,750 cases of personal protective equipment throughout our state. Emergency operations have also provided resources such as enhanced community-based testing, statewide food banks, delivery of medical supplies like Remdesivir, and non-congregate shelters. To fund such activities, we rely heavily on federal support. As you know, all of these resources and activities—and that federal support—ends if the state of disaster emergency is allowed to expire.
The state of disaster emergency also provides other essential assistance and protections for Kansans. As you know, I have issued executive orders to ease the pandemic’s burdens and threats on Kansans. Those orders include measures reducing barriers for online driver’s licenses renewals, emergency measures to protect residents in adult care homes, prohibiting COVID-related evictions and foreclosures, and requiring simple but effective protective measures like wearing masks, especially in our schools.
Each of these critical services for Kansans will end if the state of disaster emergency expires. Additionally, as you have heard from prosecutors across Kansas, our criminal justice system requires emergency flexibility to deal with the challenges of holding jury trials and speedy trial rules. If the state of disaster emergency expires, our prosecutors will be forced to dismiss charges against criminal defendants accused of serious violent crimes if they cannot try those cases before February. These are just some of the consequences that will follow if the state of disaster emergency is allowed to lapse.
I wish that I did not have to come to you asking to extend this state of disaster emergency. Like all Kansans, I want to have this pandemic behind us and move on to the ever-present challenges of improving education, opportunity, and equality for all Kansans. But COVID-19 is not behind us, nor will it be for some time.
Livelihoods and lives are at stake, and time is of the essence. I know that as legislative leaders, you have been part Kansas’s emergency response from Day One – none of this is new to you. I know you understand what’s at stake.
I look forward to our meeting tomorrow, doing the right thing for our state, and working together to keep Kansans safe and healthy during this unprecedented public health emergency.
Governor of Kansas