KS governor assembles 'SPARK Task Force' to lead economic recovery

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Kansas Governor Laura Kelly Tuesday announced the formation of a team to help distribute federal funding from the CARES Act, which dedicates $150 billion to states to cover COVID-19-related expenses, including support for people out of work due to the pandemic.

In this Friday, May 8, 2020 photo, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly discusses the coronavirus pandemic during a news conference with Dr. Lee Norman, the state's top health administrator, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kansas. Her orders and local orders meant to check the spread of the novel coronavirus are facing legal challenges. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

The SPARK Task Force reports Kansas will receive about $1.25 billion from the federal legislation. Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple says cities desperately need that money and Wichita already is looking at a multi-million-dollar deficit this year.

"We created an account to try to keep all of our expenses in line that we are utilizing for COVID-19, so that we can get reimbursed," Whipple says."Right now, though, we have a projection of a deficit in our budget anywhere from $5 (million) to $15 million. COVID has taken a terrible toll on our local economy and our local budget at the city level."

Lost revenue is adding up quickly in cities and counties across Kansas.

"The type of cut to a budget like ours is going to have a tremendous impact on the services people expect from us," Whipple says.

It's unclear how the state will divide the money, but the task force says cities like Wichita were hit especially hard.

"Wichita has had a double hit. We had a hit with the 737 problem (with Boeing) and now a hit with a national pandemic," says Sen. Jill Docking, on the SPARK Task Force Executive Committee. "I think the stress on Wichita has been greater."

Wednesday, Kelly meets with President Donald Trump. One goal with that meeting is to encourage the White House to provide more relief to state and local governments.