Economic researchers urge Kansas lawmakers to control COVID-19 cases, boost economy

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — The Coronavirus pandemic has taken a major toll on the nation’s economy. Researchers at the Urban Institute, a non-profit economic and social research organization, are calling the unprecedented economic downturn a nationwide “recession” that varies across states.

In a virtual meeting with Kansas’ Council on Tax Reform, researchers said that even though the state has shown improvement over the last few months, there’s still a long way to go to reach economic recovery.

“While things are definitely better than they were in the Summer, they are by no means good,” said Richard Auxier, a senior policy associate at the Urban Institute.

While presenting research on the state’s economic standing, Auxier said Kansas has one of the highest unemployment rates right now compared to its neighboring states, sitting at 5.9%. While, it’s lower than the national average, and down by about half since it reached its peak in April at 11.9%, researchers say it could be connected to Coronavirus case numbers.

Kim Rueben, Director of State and Local Finance at the Urban Institute, said one of the first steps to economic recovery will be controlling the state’s surge in cases.

“I think largely as the country as a whole, and part of what Kansas’ governor needs to do, and what’s harder to do on the state level if it’s not coming from the federal level, is for us to really understand how do we get our case loads under control and how do we respond to the pandemic,” Rueben said.

Rueben said the Urban Institute has recommended controlling case loads across the nation, before being able to get the economy to thrive, linking an increased number of cases to creating a potential stall in economic gain.

“As case load has increased, we’re going to probably see businesses start to shut down again, but even if governments don’t mandate that they shut down, we’re going to see people be more nervous and not go out,” Rueben explained.

Researchers also say that a second stimulus package from Washington may provide a much-needed boost to the state’s economy. Governor Laura Kelly advocated for a stimulus package in a virtual meeting with the state’s SPARK Task Force on Monday.

With the state’s limited supply of CARES Act funds, the governor noted that a second stimulus package could help pump more money into the economy, especially for small businesses and Kansans that are unemployed.

“We’ve got to have Congress get on board, and get on board quickly, and pass that stimulus,” Governor Kelly urged, as she explained her push for Congress to take action.

In an attempt to help control the spread of Coronavirus in Kansas, Governor Kelly announced her new executive order this week, calling for a statewide face-covering protocol. In the executive order, county commissions will have one week to implement their own ordinance. If they haven’t created their own, they will automatically be opted into the governor’s order.

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