March 4, 2024

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Kansas Chamber releases plan to restart economy

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As Kansas Governor Laura Kelly announced she was extending the state-wide stay-at-home order until May 3, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce released a paper detailing more than 40 recommendations for getting the Kansas economy restarted.

“The Kansas business community’s priority is ensuring its employees are safe and healthy while working to provide the much-needed support, services and products during this global crisis,” Chamber President and CEO Alan Cobb said in a release. “At some point, possibly soon, the health crisis will subside to the point where business and society can begin to reopen. To ensure Kansas is ready, state and local government officials and business leaders should work together to develop specific health metrics and safety criteria, that when met, will give businesses, their employees and citizens confidence in the safety of their workplaces so we can begin to reopen the Kansas economy.”

On Thursday Kansas jobless claims hit 160,000 in the last four weeks.

The Kansas Policy Institute — which owns the Sentinel — likewise earlier this week released its own list of 40 policy proposals to help Kansans weather the coming economic storm — particularly as Kansas cases have been trending both down, and roughly 70 percent lower than the national average.

All this comes hard on the heels of 43 members of the Kansas House of Representatives sending Kelly a letter asking her for a concrete plan and timetable to get Kansas businesses moving again.

“Kansans deserve to have confidence that your office has a plan to return us to some semblance of normalcy as soon as possible. This needs to be based on sound science and constitutional principles,” the letter read in part. “It is your responsibility as governor to work with leaders to determine concrete, objective, measurable standards and metrics to return our lives and livelihoods back to normal as soon as possible. You very clearly stated that you were not “ready” for this crisis. However, there is no excuse for us to not be prepared to rebuild and reopen our economy after the damage caused by COVID-19.”

State Rep. Paul Waggoner, (R-Hutchinson), one of the authors of the letter said the purpose was to get the governor to focus on an exit strategy from the lockdown.

“In the last week two restaurants/cafes in Hutchinson have posted notice that they are closed for good due to the Governors shutdown,” Waggoner said. “People need to see the way forward and they need to see it now. The impact from Coronavirus has been much weaker than anticipated here. We have a 150-bed hospital (In Hutchinson) and only 1 Corona patient now. The hospital and clinic have postponed so many procedures that now they are having lay-offs due to a lack of patients.

“Anyone with their ear to the ground knows that Kansans care about both lives and livelihood. We are tired of ambiguous language from Cedar Crest on re-opening.  We are speaking for our constituents who want the governor to be as concrete as possible, with timetables, metrics, and goals for life to reachieve some normalcy.”

Both the KPI and Kansas Chamber proposals include things like permanently repealing any regulation waived during the crisis as inessential, incentivizing cost savings by rewarding public employees who identify places to cut expenses and making permanent cross-state licensing waivers.

Cobb said in the release that the safety and health of Kansans should continue to be the priority as the state begins to allow more Kansans to get back to work.

“Kansas needs to ensure the state’s plan includes a process to move Kansas from criteria for ‘essential businesses’ to a plan for ‘safe businesses’ that allows all businesses to perform their functions in a manner completely safe for their employees, customers and society,” Cobb said in the release. “The health status of geographic regions should be taken into consideration. There also should be specific protections for those most vulnerable based on age and/or health status.”

Cobb said given that Kansas was one of the last states to recover from the 2008-09 recession, it is important that the state have a plan to move forward once the lockdown is lifted.

“The economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis will have long-term consequences,” Cobb said. “It is the hope of the Kansas business community, (that) our state will begin planning now so our state is leading the country’s recovery efforts this time.”

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