Kansas picks 614 small communities for portion of federal relief package

By: - June 9, 2021 1:55 pm

Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration announced Wednesday that 614 small communities in Kansas will receive funding administered by the state through the American Rescue Plan. (March 3, 2021, photo by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Waldron Mayor Shirley Nelson was happy to learn her tiny south-central Kansas community is slated to receive $1,517.07 in federal pandemic relief.

State officials on Wednesday revealed the list of 614 small communities that will receive American Rescue Plan funds administered by the state. Waldron, with a population that fluctuates from 10 to 12, has the distinction of being the smallest city in Kansas to receive a chunk of the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package.

“I’ll be glad to have it,” Nelson said. “We’re very, very small, so any extra income is very, very welcome. We have streets to take care of and stuff. It would be a really big help.”

Those streets require a special kind of gravel that won’t sink into the underlying sand. Waldron, which sits along the Oklahoma border in Harper County, is a nice place to live, Nelson said, but doesn’t have a single business to support city operations. Everything is privately owned.

“It’s that small,” Nelson said.

State and local governments in Kansas will get $1.58 billion through the federal aid package, including $167 million through the Local Fiscal Recovery Fund for cities with a population of less than 50,000. At the large end of the spectrum, Salina, population 46,000, will get $7 million, and Hutchinson, population 40,000, will get $6.1 million.

Each of the state’s 105 counties and 10 metropolitan cities also will receive money from the U.S. Treasury as part of the American Rescue Plan.

Congress passed the stimulus package earlier this year to assist with the long-term economic and public health recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Laura Kelly said the funding “will provide critical resources to Kansas communities as we continue our recovery.”

“We must use these dollars to make the strategic investments that will build a better, more inclusive and resilient economy for future Kansans,” Kelly said.

State officials ruled out townships from receiving funding, based on federal requirements. The governor said she will make a recommendation to the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas Task Force to provide relief for townships from an alternate funding source.

SPARK oversees distribution of federal funding, with final approval by the State Finance Council.

The newly reshaped SPARK roster includes Greg Orman, who lost the governor’s race to Kelly as an independent candidate in 2018. He was appointed to the panel by House Speaker Ron Ryckman, who also is on the panel. Other members include Senate President Ty Masterson and his appointment, Bill Pickert, along with Lt. Gov. David Toland, Administration secretary DeAngela Burns-Wallace, and Kelly appointee Jon Rolph.

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the 2021 and 2022 Kansas Press Association’s journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He is a lifelong Kansan.