Flags at half-staff to honor legislator

Flags are flying at half-staff at all state buildings and facilities Wednesday in honor of State Rep. Ron Howard, a conservative Wichita Republican.

Rep. Howard, who died Tuesday, was 67. He was in office since 2019, representing District 98.

“My thoughts are with Rep. Ron Howard’s wife, Terri, and all of his friends and family during this difficult time,” Gov. Laura Kelly said. “A former Boeing worker and lawn care service owner, Rep. Howard shared a proud, hardworking background with many in his South Wichita and Haysville district. Despite facing difficult health challenges, Rep. Howard’s perseverance demonstrated his strong dedication to those he served.”

Parental leave policy extended for state employees

A new expanded parental leave policy for state employees was announced recently by Gov. Laura Kelly.

Parental leave benefits have been extended to primary caregivers, secondary caregivers and foster parents.

“Supporting working parents in our workforce is not only the right thing to do – it’s good for our economy,” Gov. Kelly said. “We’re committed to recruiting and keeping talented Kansans in our state and creating a supportive environment for our families.”

Under the new policy, primary and secondary caregivers, along with foster parents, receive the additional leave. The new policy:

• Primary caregivers receive eight weeks of leave (an increase of two weeks from the original policy);
• Secondary caregivers receive four weeks of leave (an increase of one week from the original policy);
• Foster parents are now eligible for parental leave, with primary caregivers receiving eight weeks of leave and secondary caregivers receiving four weeks of leave;
• Parental leave can now be used 30 days in advance of the birth date, adoption, or fostering of a child or children per calendar year;
• New state employees become eligible after 180 days of employment. Current employees will not be subjected to this requirement.

“Paid family leave is a win-win for both families and employers,” said Wendy Doyle, president and CEO, United WE. “Policies like this that expand these benefits to women and their families bolster economies, improve health and education outcomes and strengthens business through a stronger employee workforce. We applaud Governor Kelly’s action today and urge other states without paid family leave policies to consider the research-backed benefits of strong economic policies that support employees and their families.”

Effective immediately, the Kansas Department of Administration’s Office of Personnel Services will implement the new policy and provide information to state of Kansas agencies and employees.

DCF to continue emergency food assistance for Kansas residents

Gov. Laura Kelly on Tuesday directed the Kansas Department for Children and Families to continue emergency food assistance (SNAP) benefits to current program households.

The emergency allotment increases a household’s monthly benefit to the maximum allowed for the size of family.

“While Kansas continues its steady return to normal, the pandemic caused challenges for families – and many still need support,” Gov. Kelly said. “Extending emergency SNAP benefits is part of our commitment to protecting Kansas children and families during the pandemic and beyond, and ensuring our kids have reliable access to quality, healthy foods.”

Under Gov. Kelly’s direction, DCF Secretary Laura Howard issued a declaration of continuing benefits due to COVID-19 — under state law — which directs the agency to continue taking all necessary actions to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the state of Kansas.

DCF estimates the extension will bring an additional $14.5 million in benefits per month to Kansas.

“I appreciate our federal partners for continuing this valuable support for vulnerable Kansans,” Secretary Howard said. “These emergency benefits will help ensure Kansas families have access to healthy groceries as we continue to recover from this pandemic.”

The continuance of the emergency allotment is effective through Dec. 31, 2021, or upon the termination of the federal declaration of a public health emergency, whichever occurs sooner.

No application is necessary to receive the emergency food assistance funds. The distribution will continue to follow the standard alphabetical schedule.

Those that don’t currently receive food assistance but are interested in applying can visit the DCF website at www.dcf.ks.gov.