TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly’s frustration with inability of Congress to advance a new coronavirus relief package culminated Monday in signing of an executive order prohibiting mortgage foreclosures as well as residential or commercial evictions in Kansas due to financial hardship created by the pandemic.
She said her order was identical to a statewide mandate that expired and that she would renew the measure in two weeks if the federal government didn’t take action on a national scale. The Kelly administration is evaluating options for aiding landlords who have grappled for months with these restrictions as the economy fell into recession due to business closures and surging unemployment.
“All eyes are on Congress to see what it will do with the next stimulus package,” Kelly said. “I can’t sit back and do nothing while the (U.S.) Senate has gone on vacation without addressing the issue. This pandemic is still devastating to our communities and preventing people from working.”
“No Kansans should be kicked out of their home during this pandemic. That’s just wrong,” she said.
Neither county officials nor members of the State Finance Council have authority to block Executive Order No. 20-61, the governor said.
In addition, Kelly said she signed Executive Order No. 20-62 to extend regulatory relief for trucking companies delivering COVID-19 supplies.
On the six-month anniversary of the first COVID-19 case in Kansas, the Democrat governor said the virus continued to threaten the nation’s economy, public health and education system.
She said the Kansas Department of Health and Environment documented an increase of 1,280 cases of coronavirus and three fatalities linked to the illness since Friday. The state’s totals: 35,167 positive tests, 2,034 hospitalizations, 405 deaths.
“These numbers should concern all of us, especially as parents are preparing to send their children back to school over the next few weeks,” Kelly said. “The science is clear. Children can catch and spread the virus and while they may not be symptomatic, school faculty and their families might be.”
Kelly referenced comments offered Saturday in Kansas City, Kan., by Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, regarding the value of wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and washing hands to stem the spread. In addition, Birx said the pandemic had become an urban and rural menace and that no one should consider themselves immune.
“I appreciate Dr. Birx’s coming to Kansas to echo our administration’s message that it doesn’t matter which side the political aisle you are on or what size your community is. The data don’t lie. Wearing a mask works,” Kelly said.
In terms of the unemployment relief plan outlined by President Donald Trump, the governor said the state was examining the president’s proposal to offer $300 per week in federal jobless benefits with states adding $100 per week to the total. She said there was apprehension the president’s order lacked legal authority. She also shared concern the state’s portion of the plan could be $40 million monthly.
She said the best course of action would be for the federal government to renew the $600 weekly unemployment benefit that was allowed to expire due to stalled negotiations between House Democrats and the White House.
In response to a question, the governor said she had misgivings about a campaign by the Trump administration to shrink capacity of the U.S. Postal Service to process mail-in ballots ahead of the November election.
“I think it’s very disturbing that the Post Office is being a political pawn in all of this,” she said. “This is an esteemed federal entity that has provided services, particularly to our rural Kansans, for over a century. Instead of unraveling the postal system, we need to reinforce it. Quite honestly, as this time, we need it more than ever.”