COVID-19 testing, remote learning capabilities to receive boost

Gov. Laura Kelly and legislative leaders Thursday approved about $290 million in COVID-related spending, including $40 million for child supervision and remote learning.

The unanimous decision by the State Finance Council represented the final installment of approximately $1 billion in federal CARES Act funding. In two earlier rounds, $400 million went to counties for COVID-19 expenses and $314 toward statewide priorities, including broadband connectivity and early childhood support.

The biggest ticket item in Thursday’s action was $50 million to expand COVID-19 testing. Kelly and others said the expansion is needed to protect the public health and provide a truer assessment of the spread of the virus, which in turn could affect whether schools operate onsite, remotely or a blending of the two.

The Kansas Children’s Cabinet Trust Fund will receive $40 million to provide remote learning centers for school-age children, which will also provide child supervision for working parents.

Additional major expenses include $35 million for rental and utilities assistance and landlord support; $30 million to continue essential state government services and $30 million for computer upgrades in the Kansas Department of Labor’s troubled unemployment computer system.

Nearly $80 million has been designated in reserve fund areas that can be used for even further COVID-19 testing or related needs, housing stability and more assistance for children.

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