Kansas Third District State Representative Monica Murnan presented an update on CARES Act funds and related information to members of city government during the regularly scheduled City Commissioner Meeting Tuesday, Oct. 27, at Beard Shanks Law Enforcement Center, 201 N. Pine St., Pittsburg. Commissioner Chuck Munsell assumed the duties of Mayor McNay in her absence.
Last spring the state received $12 billion from the Coronavirus relief funds. The state divided that money into three rounds of disbursements. Murnan said with the speed of how the funds have rolled out, and in light of additional information received from the government as time goes by, she felt it necessary to share about the system and how it directly has impacted the city of Pittsburg.
“One of the things that we found is the absolute necessity of being transparent in the money,” Murnan said. “…also, being sure that the money is being spent as intended by the federal government. That is easier said than done. It’s a very complicated system.”
Murnan said that all the CARES Act funds need to be spent by December 30, 2020. The Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas Committee (SPARK) developed a three-phased approach to prioritize and address the immediate health and economic needs of Kansas communities. The first phase included the distribution of $400 million to counties. Crawford County received just over $7.8 million. The Crawford County Commission is responsible for the distribution of those funds.
“The major intended purpose is to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19,” Murnan said. “Now that’s a pretty big purpose and can be defined a lot of ways…Crawford County Commissioners have done a really nice job in ensuring that they got the word out about the dollars, but also were being accountable for those dollars and using them for the intended purposes…the majority of them are in the city of Pittsburg…(used to support) small business and nonprofit grants that were based on a formula…derived from the number of full-time employees and part time employees…also $750,000 was given to the University for reopening purposes.”
Phase two of the SPARK funds total approximately $314 million and went toward public health, economic development
, and connectivity.
“So once again the city of Pittsburg stood out because they were ready and had been collaborating and talking,” Murnan said. “Brad Hanson from the school district is using really creative high-tech ways to connect kids to their school who do not have connectivity. And what they’re doing is amazing and isn’t being done anywhere else. But I’m thinking every city (and school district) in the state are going to want to follow.”
Phase three targets issues of testing and housing. Murnan said the state has put money into building their own infrastructure to address the availability, speed, and the accuracy of testing.
“As we have learned through this pandemic…it’s a quick civics lesson on who’s responsible for public health, and the answer is all of us, right?” Murnan said. “But the folks that have the ultimate responsibility of course is the state of Kansas when it comes to public health.”
Early in the pandemic Governor Kelly issued an executive order regarding evictions that is still in play. Murnan said this will help to support both the landlord and the tenant in these situations.
“There’s a program that just rolled out, I actually helped a constituent with it the other day,” Murnan said. “(It) pays the landlord if the tenant is experiencing a COVID related situation that they can’t pay their rent up to $5000. The idea being we want to keep people where they are in the pandemic. (The) program is super easy to use and we’re really seeing a lot of results from it.”
Murnan said the Department of Commerce has played a large role in getting these funds out.
“Because the city of Pittsburg has a great relationship with the Department of Commerce…again, the pathway was cleared, and the conversations had already been had, so we could move quite quickly in that process,” Murnan said.
According to Murnan, there are still two things to focus on which are important to Kansas citizens: whether there will be additional relief from the federal government and unemployment fraud.
“I get phone calls on a regular basis that say, ‘I didn’t file for unemployment, but my employer thinks I did,’ or ‘I got a letter at home saying I filed for unemployment, but I didn’t,’” Murnan said. “This is just part of a nationwide problem the Kansas Department of Labor is taking on. There is a fraud hotline, and there’s a way to report that online. So, I highly encourage people if that happens to them, (to) please go directly to the Department of Labor website and be on the lookout and watch for that.”
In other city business the Office of the Mayor made a proclamation to call attention to October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The honor was received by representatives of the Safehouse Domestic Violence Crisis Center of Southeast Kansas. The proclamation states that, as a community, Pittsburg recognizes domestic violence as a widespread, preventable, and public health problem. This crisis impacts all demographics of Kansas communities and residents, and, therefore, should be brought into the awareness of the people. With this proclamation the city states that all forms of domestic violence are inconsistent with Pittsburg values and cannot be tolerated.
The City Commission meets at 5:30 p.m., on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. Meetings are live streamed. Anyone interested in City Commission meetings can locate agendas, minutes, and recent meeting videos on the city of Pittsburg website, www.pittks.org.