May 10th COVID-19 Update

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Dear *|FNAME|*

First of all, a very Happy Mothers Day to everyone! Personally, it has been an incredible year, and it's been a true honor to see Kearsha be a mother. Truly, watching her be a mom is like watching Michael Jordan play basketball in his prime, and I'm just a Scottie Pippin (or maybe Steve Kerr) doing his best to keep things moving.

Onto the updates!

Governor Kelly
There were no new executive orders issued related to COVID-19 this week, but she did issue one ordering that flags be flown at half-staff for the death of Overland Park police officer Mike Mosher. 

She has also created a Recovery Office charged with leading Kansas out of the far-reaching effects of the pandemic, and has selected Cheryl Harrison-Lee to be executive director and Lyle Butler as chair.

Governor Kelly has been asked a lot about why barbers and hair stylists have to wait so long to open. She explained that with these professions, it's simply impossible to maintain safe distancing protocols and that's why they were included in Phase 2, which is scheduled to begin no sooner than May 18th.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment
Dr. Lee Norman said that as of Friday, Kansas has 6,501 cases, with 152 deaths and 76 clusters being monitored. He said that inmate testing is complete at Lansing Correctional Facility, and roughly half the inmates tested positive for COVID-19.

Per capita hospitalization rates and deaths are trending favorably, and these are the two primary metrics to look at when advancing phases in the re-opening plan. He was asked if we've seen any backsliding since Phase 1 started this past week and he said no, but it typically takes 14 days to see any evidence of this.

We are now testing wastewater for fragments of the virus, and Hiawatha reported finding it in its wastewater earlier this week. Dr. Norman said this can be an early warning system to know if the virus is being shed in a community even if there haven't been any positive cases. It can also serve as a way to alert officials if there is a re-emergence or second wave starting later on.

Relevant to District 25, he was also asked if it was prudent for cities to create ordinances about the wearing of masks. He declined to offer legal advice on this, but said that from a public health perspective, the safest thing that someone can do is wear a mask outside of one's home, but following the usual social distancing guidelines, hand washing, and not being around mass gatherings also goes a long way towards protection.

Kansas Department of Labor
New initial claims continue to fall, but weekly claims are in the 475,000 range. Thus far, the agency has paid out in $144 million in claims, with another $73 million in federal dollars for the $600 addition. For context, at the beginning of the pandemic, we had about $1B in our unemployment trust fund, so having only gone through $144M in 8-ish weeks with as many claims as we've had shows that the fund is in a healthy place.

Only about $75 million in $600 payments can be sent out per day, so they've developed a staggered system to file back claims. If your last name starts with A-G, then file after noon on Sunday; between H-M file Monday, between N-S, file Tuesday, and between T-Z, file Wednesday.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program will begin accepting applications on May 12th. This is unemployment for self-employed, gig workers, and others who don't qualify for ordinary unemployment benefits. We had previously been told to just tell constituents to apply for normal unemployment and get denied, but the new guidance is to please apply for PUA when applications start next week.

Kansas Department of Commerce
Secretary David Toland said that the state secured more than 184,000 PPP loans since the second round got approved, with the average amount being $44,000. He said that the state has secured $5.1B in federal funds for our Kansas businesses.

Tomorrow, the department will announce details on $9M in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds that help local businesses retain jobs. Communities will be able to grant $300,000 to existing businesses to pay for wages, rent, utilities, and other business expenses. These funds will be given to communities, which can then grant them to organizations. Applications will be available Tuesday, May 11 at kansascommerce.gov.

There's also $500,000 available for funding for the arts, entertainment, and recreational industries. About 7,700 people have lost employment in these fields, and tourism activity is down about 80% from last year. Applications will be open until May 15th, and can also be found at kansascommerce.gov.

Me
The days have been full, between helping constituents get their unemployment benefits, working my two private-sector freelance jobs, rearing Astra, and starting to get the campaign up and running for the November election.

This last week was a fun one, though. I had the great opportunity to serve on a national panel with US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, NY Senator Jessica Ramos, and KY Senator Josie Raymond about parenting and public service during a pandemic:



The legislature also made the decision to reconvene for 1 day on May 21st to close out the session. There will be some committees meeting virtually until then to prepare legislation to vote on that day, so I will keep you all updated on anything significant or dangerous coming down the pipeline.

I hope everyone is doing well and everyone is healthy. Please never hesitate to reach out to me.
As always, it is a true honor to serve as your state representative. Please feel free to contact me with any questions and comments you might have.

In Topeka, my office address is Room 174W, 300 SW 10th Ave, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at 785.296.7686 or email me at rui.xu@house.ks.gov.

You can also always email me at my personal email address at ruixuks@gmail.com or call or text me on my cell phone at 913.535.8691.

Sincerely,
Representative Rui Xu
Kansas State Representative, District 25
 
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