Mar 20, 2020 4:58 PM

Kansas starts loan program to aid bars, restaurants, motels

Posted Mar 20, 2020 4:58 PM
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly and Commerce Secretary David Toland during Friday's announcement -image courtesy Kansas Dept. of Commerce
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly and Commerce Secretary David Toland during Friday's announcement -image courtesy Kansas Dept. of Commerce

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has launched a new program to provide short-term, no-interest loans to bars, restaurants, taverns and motels struggling to cover operating expenses because of the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

The program announced Friday by Gov. Laura Kelly and state Commerce Secretary David Toland will make up to $5 million in loans. Several communities, including Kansas City-area suburbs, Topeka, and Lawrence, have told businesses to stop allowing dine-in services.

Kansas Labor Secretary Delia Garcia said the state has received more than 11,000 initial unemployment claims this week, a 524% increase over last week's figure. Kansas has confirmed more than 30 coronavirus cases. 

Read the release from the Governor's office below

U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance Loans

The Governor first announced that under the state's disaster declaration she issued on March 12th, Kansas has applied for, and expects to receive, disaster assistance loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to supplement small businesses disrupted by the economic fallbacks of COVID-19.

"As Kansans practice social distancing, our restaurants, bars and other event centers will see a decrease in patrons. These loans can be used to help keep Kansas small businesses afloat when they can't obtain credit elsewhere," Kelly said. "During this turbulent time, our affected small business owners need support."

Through the SBA, loans of up to $2 million would be made available to Kansas small businesses in need of assistance. The disaster declaration extends to all 105 Kansas counties, making low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital available for Kansas small businesses across the state.

"SBA's disaster loans are a powerful tool to help our state's small businesses weather this temporary storm," Toland said. "The Department of Commerce is grateful for the SBA's quick action working to make these resources available and for their commitment to keeping Kansas businesses strong."

Once approved, Kansas small businesses can begin applying for disaster loan assistance through the SBA at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. SBA loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills. The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses and 2.75 percent for private non-profit organizations.

Hospitality Industry Relief Emergency (HIRE) Fund

The Governor also announced during Friday's press conference that her administration has allocated $5 million of state funds to establish the Hospitality Industry Relief Emergency (HIRE) Fund to provide short-term, zero-interest loans for Kansas' hospitality sector during the pandemic.

"In an effort to make sure all Kansans come through these difficulties together, we are providing much-needed support to businesses dealing with the earliest impacts of this public health crisis," Kelly said. "There are more than 10,000 hotels, restaurants, bars, event centers and other hospitality establishments in need of our support right now, and we're doing everything we can see them through this severe, but temporary, downturn."

The HIRE Fund offers loans up to $20,000 at 0 percent interest for a term of three years to hospitality businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

"The hospitality industry is experiencing some of the most immediate impacts of the COVID-19 crisis with businesses being closed to the public all across Kansas," Toland said. "HIRE Fund loans are available to help these businesses meet working capital commitments, such as payroll, utilities, commercial loan payments, inventory expenses and more."

Loan decisions will made within 72 hours of the time an application is submitted, and businesses will receive funds within 48 hours (or the next business day) of an application being approved. The program is administered by NetWork Kansas, a non-profit with a system of small business loan underwriters across 64 Kansas counties.

For more information on the Hospitality Industry Relief Emergency fund, visit kansascommerce.gov/HIREfund.

Kansas Department of Labor Updates

García spoke about her agency's role in supporting Kansans during the current health and economic crisis.

"We are doing everything we can to support Kansas workers and employers," García said. "As we navigate these unprecedented times, know the Kansas Department of Labor is here for you – and we are ready to support our fellow Kansans."

To illustrate the gravity of the situation, García said that last week the department received 1,296 unemployment claims. This week, the department has received 11,355 claims – an increase of over 10,000.

 "We are in uncharted waters right now, which underscores the importance of us working together," García said. "To serve Kansas workers and employers as efficiently as possible, we are encouraging them to utilize our website -- www.dol.ks.gov -- as much as possible."

Employers and workers can apply for benefits, file by spreadsheet, find answers to frequently asked questions and utilize additional resources online.

Office of the State Bank Commissioner Updates

Herndon shared updates from his office, dispelled false rumors surrounding the impact of COVID-19 on Kansas banks and discussed how the Kansas banking industry is stepping up to help people across the state.

The Office of the State Bank Commissioner regulates banks chartered by Kansas and non-bank consumer credit providers licensed to do business in Kansas. It conducts safety and soundness examinations, regulatory compliance examinations and information technology/cybersecurity exams as mandated by federal and state laws and regulations.

"Kansas banks are safe and they are sound," Herndon said. "No depositor has ever lost a penny of insured deposits since the FDIC was created in 1933. I urge Kansans to be safe, protect yourself and your funds by leaving them in your account."

Herndon said bankers across the state are assisting Kansans by making new loans, amending terms and conditions to existing loans and otherwise working with borrowers adversely impacted by the pandemic.

"Kansas bankers and the Kansas banking industry is stepping up to help through this pandemic, and they are here to assist in any way they can for the duration," Herndon said.

The Governor also thanked Kansas medical professionals, members of the press corps, grocery store and food industry workers, custodial staff, firefighters, police officers, state and local emergency managers, and the 21 state-active duty National guardsmen & women for their hard work.

"I know many of you are working long hours away from your family and that is tough so please know that Kansans all across the state appreciate you and all you are doing," Kelly said.

Continue Reading Hays Post
Mar 20, 2020 4:58 PM
UPDATE: What Kansans need to know about the COVID-19 coronavirus
Health officials say one way to stop the spread of the new coronavirus is to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas News Service

Note: A Spanish-language version of this article can be found HERE.

The new coronavirus is spreading quickly around the world, including across Kansas, and setting off a range of responses.

The Kansas News Service is boiling down key developments in the state and updating the status regularly here. To read this information in Spanish, go here. This list was last updated at 4:10 p.m. April 7.

CASES AND DEATHS

900 cases (see map for counties) and 223 hospitalizations

27 deaths  (the state is no longer disclosing which counties are seeing deaths)

NOTE: These figures only include cases confirmed with lab tests and do not represent the real, unknown total. Community transmission is occurring in parts of Kansas. View additional charts showing the disease’s spread over time and other trends here.

Gov. Laura Kelly is instituting a statewide stay-at-home order as of 12:01 a.m. March 30. It will last until at least April 19. Stay-at-home orders allow people to take care of essential activities (such as grocery shopping or going to work) as well as exercise outside, but otherwise keep to themselves. 

The state’s stay-at-home order supersedes at least 13 county-by-county orders. Should the state’s order lift before a county’s is through, the county can choose to keep its own in effect.

SHOULD I SELF-QUARANTINE?

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is now mandating home quarantine for 14 days if you've traveled to the places listed below. If you come down with symptoms (such as a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, coughing or shortness of breath) during those 14 days, contact your health care provider and explain your potential COVID-19 exposure.  

  1. Connecticut on or after April 6.
  2. Louisiana or anywhere in Colorado on or after March 27.
  3. States with known widespread community transmission (California, Florida, New York and Washington) on or after March 15.
  4. Illinois or New Jersey on or after March 23.
  5. Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison counties in Colorado (if your visit was March 8th or later).
  6. Cruise ships or river cruises on or after March 15. Anyone previously told to quarantine because of their cruise ship travel should also finish out their quarantine.
  7. International destinations on or after March 15. Anyone previously told to quarantine because of their international travel should also finish out their quarantine.

Some doctors recommend patients with COVID-19 symptoms stay home even if they test negative for the disease, because of concerns that current testing approaches may be producing a significant number of false negatives.

TESTING AVAILABILITY

Several hospitals across the state now offer drive-through testing, but patients must get doctor approval in advance or else will be turned away. Many Kansans can’t be tested unless they’re sick enough to be hospitalized, and results may take up to a week. 

That’s because testing supplies remain limited and private labs helping many clinics and hospitals have large backlogs of samples. Hospitals trying to buy equipment for in-house testing say vendors are backlogged, too. The state will soon have several portable machines that can conduct 5- to 15-minute tests, and plans to lend them out to facilities most in need.

Some Kansas hospitals have succeeded in getting the testing materials and can give patients their results within a day. The state health department lab in Topeka can handle several hundred samples per day — a fraction of the demand.

Under a new federal law, you should not have to pay for your coronavirus test, regardless of insurance status (but patients could still see related bills). Separately, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, the state’s largest private insurer, says some patients won’t have to pay for coronavirus treatment.

HOW ARE UNIVERSITIES RESPONDING?

Public and private universities and community colleges in the state will finish this semester via online classes. Spring sports have been canceled. Most staff travel has been suspended. Graduations at KU, K-State and Wichita State are postponed or rescheduled.

The University of Kansas and Wichita State also plan to hold summer classes online. KU and K-State announced hiring freezes in early April. 

HOW ABOUT K-12 SCHOOLS?

In mid-March, Kansas became the first state in the U.S. to shut down school buildings for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. A state task force then issued guidance for distance learning, for which students aren’t expected to spend more than a few hours a day. 

Some districts that make high schoolers earn more credits than required by the state will graduate them this year based on the state’s lower bar. 

Districts across the state are still providing free meals to eligible children, but some have stopped because of concerns about the coronavirus spreading at meal pickup sites.

WHAT IN DAY-TO-DAY LIFE IS AFFECTED? 

  1. Church gatherings and funerals: Effective April 8, the governor has prohibited services of more than 10 people. That doesn’t count people performing the rituals or funeral workers, but they must stay six feet apart from each other.
  2. State tax deadline: Extended until July 15, in line with a delay for filing federal tax forms.
  3. Evictions: Business and residential evictions are banned until May 1 if a tenant is unable to pay because of the coronavirus.
  4. Mortgage foreclosures: Foreclosures are banned until May 1.
  5. Small businesses: May be eligible for emergency federal loans. Find information here.
  6. Hospitality businesses: Kansas created an emergency loan program, which quickly ran out of funds, but businesses can still apply to help the state assess the need for more assistance.
  7. Utilities: Evergy, which serves 950,000 customers in Kansas, will not disconnect residential or business services for an unspecified amount of time. 
  8. Gatherings: Restricted to fewer than 10 people throughout the state.
  9. State of emergency: Kansas’ declaration is good through May (and can be extended). It gives the government more power to marshal resources and Kelly the ability to make certain decisions when lawmakers aren’t in session.
  10. State workers: Access to the Statehouse is limited to official business only through April 19. Most state workers are doing their jobs remotely.
  11. Prisons and jails: The Kansas Department of Corrections ended visitation at all state facilities, and will “re-evaluate on an ongoing basis.” It urges families to talk to inmates through email, phone calls and video visits. County jails largely have ended visitations as well. 

HOW BAD IS THE VIRUS? 

COVID-19 usually causes mild to moderate symptoms, like a fever or cough. Most people with mild symptoms recover in two weeks. More severe cases, found in older adults and people with health issues, can have up to six weeks’ recovery time or can lead to death.

HOW CAN YOU AVOID IT?

  1. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Frequently.
  2. Cover your coughs.
  3. The CDC now recommends wearing a cloth mask in situations where social distancing isn’t possible; instructions for sewn and non-sewn versions are here.
  4. If you’re an older Kansan or medically fragile, limit your trips to the grocery store or any public space.
  5. Stay home if you are sick — this goes for all ages.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON COVID-19

Kansas Department of Health and Environment: http://www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus/

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.