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TOPEKA — Kansas’ four members of the U.S. House on Friday endorsed the $2 trillion coronavirus economic relief bill sent to President Donald Trump.
Republican Reps. Ron Estes, Roger Marshall and Steve Watkins and Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids backed the legislation, as did GOP U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran. Trump promptly signed the measure.
"America is at war with an enemy we cannot see. COVID-19 has displaced millions of American workers, overloaded our hospitals and disrupted our supply chain," said Watkins, who serves the 2nd District. "We are resilient and we will not only beat this virus, but come out stronger and more unified on the other side."
The bill will send $1,200 checks to many American adults and earmark hundreds of billions to small and large businesses.
Davids, the Democrat from eastern Kansas’ 3rd District, said the bipartisan package provided essential financial aid to workers, businesses and hospitals during the pandemic.
"I will push the Trump administration to make sure we implement this relief immediately to help the health, safety and economic security of our neighbors while providing accountability for the distribution of this aid. But this bill alone is not enough," she said.
Estes, who serves the 4th District that includes Wichita, said the law would streamline ability of the federal government to assist distressed businesses and would expand unemployment benefits. It’s important all levels of government work together during the crisis, he said.
Marshall, the 1st District congressman running for the U.S. Senate, criticized House Democrats for delaying adoption of the bill while the national economy faltered and COVID-19 spread.
"This is not a perfect bill by any means and there’s a lot I wish I could take out myself, but the reality is this compromise has a lot that the American people and their small businesses need right now," Marshall said.
He said Trump’s decision to halt travel from China to the United Sates saved lives, "unlike the political garbage we’ve seen this week" from some politicians in Washington, D.C.
Gov. Laura Kelly says Kansas may not be featured on CNN every night, but the state still needs more testing materials and medical equipment on the front line of the fight against COVID-19. As it is, Kelly said, states compete with each other for supplies.
"It continues to be a problem, and this is a national problem," Kelly said.
In a conversation with The Topeka Capital-Journal's editorial advisory board, she urged President Donald Trump to implement the Defense Production Act.
The law gives the president authority to compel private businesses to produce supplies in an emergency. In Kansas and across the country, coronavirus infections have heightened the need for hospital respirators and testing capacity.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment implemented strict conditions for testing suspected coronavirus patients at its Topeka lab. Only the most dire cases, as well as health care professionals and first responders, are being tested by KDHE. Commercial labs also have handled some testing.
Kelly said she was talking with CEOs at private companies about making more tests. Ideally, she said, increased production would allow the state to do sample testing of the general population, which could give insight into the number and location of individuals who have the virus even if they aren't showing symptoms.
That kind of information would be helpful for state and county officials to consider whether to lift restrictions on social activities. For now, Kelly said, Kansans can expect the crisis will last more than two weeks.
"How much longer than that? I don't know," she said. "Nobody does."