Federal stimulus spending considered necessary

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Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

The federal government had to take bold action because of the financial hardship that the coronavirus pandemic caused.

At least that was the message from U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-3rd Dist., when she spoke to the Congressional Forum, via teleconference, at Children’s Mercy Park, Friday, Sept. 17. She had originally planned to appear in person, but opted for a teleconference because of a family emergency.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which is also called the COVID-19 stimulus package or simply the American Rescue Plan, is estimated to cost $1.9 trillion.

Part of the stimulus plan was the Paycheck Protection Plan; employers affected by the pandemic could apply for loans which, if conditions were met, could be forgiven. Banks report this as most helpful, particularly for restaurants.

Rep. Davids said she supports a new stimulus funding for restaurants; she said several restaurants, particularly smaller independent operations, were left out.

Rep. Davids was asked about her feelings about Congressional redistricting. She said there should have been more notice given about public meetings concerning redistricting. There were 14 meetings across the state, including one at Kansas City Kansas Community College and another in Johnson County.

Republican political operatives have suggested that Wyandotte County and Johnson County be separated. This would dilute Rep. Davids’ Democrat base. She lives in Roeland Park, which is in Johnson County.

Rep. Davids already has potential Republican opposition; Amanda Adkins, who lost to Rep. Davids in 2020, has announced she will run again.

Forum members expressed concern about excessive government spending. Joe Vaught, a commercial real estate agent, warned about borrowing more money than the federal government can repay. Bill Schmidt, a certified public accountant, said that government borrowing should be limited to the value of the gross national product.

Paul Bush, a banker with First State Bank, said he was concerned about the proposal that would require banks to report most all banking transactions of account holders. This would be an invasion of personal privacy, he said. Rep. Davids said she would look into the matter.

The Congressional Forum is a function of the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.

Federal funding announced to combat housing instability in Wyandotte County and 3rd District

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-3rd Dist., has announced that NeighborWorks America awarded $146,557 to Community Housing of Wyandotte County (CHWC) to provide counseling for households in the 3rd District of Kansas who are facing housing instability.

CHWC offers free and low-cost housing counseling, financial education, and purchase assistance for families.

This grant was awarded through the Housing Stability Counseling Program, which was created with funds from the American Rescue Plan. Rep. Davids is the only member of the Kansas delegation to vote for the American Rescue Plan.

“The pandemic put millions of people at risk of losing their homes and searching for assistance. Through the American Rescue Plan, help is here,” Rep. Davids said. “This grant will allow Community Housing of Wyandotte County to increase their capacity to counsel and support folks in our district who are facing housing instability, helping more families keep their homes and get back on their feet financially.”

“The HCSP grant award will provide much-needed support for CHWC’s critical effort to keep Kansas City, Kansas families safely housed as we work beside our neighbors navigating the ongoing impact of COVID-19 in our community. We thank Congresswoman Davids for her advocacy for housing and neighborhood development in KCK neighborhoods,” said Brennan Crawford, executive director and CEO of Community Housing of Wyandotte County.

With funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, NeighborWorks America designed the Housing Stability Counseling Program (HSCP). The program aims to help eligible nonprofits and agencies provide direct housing counseling services to individuals and families facing housing instability, such as eviction, foreclosure and homelessness.

Eligible HUD-approved intermediaries, state housing finance agencies (HFAs), and NeighborWorks network organizations applied for HSCP funding in June. The 131 recipients include 84 NeighborWorks network organizations, 18 HFAs, and 29 HUD-approved intermediaries. Each of these HUD-approved housing counseling agencies are set to assist consumers with foreclosure and eviction prevention and access to federal, state and local relief programs. HSCP will provide grants to more than 600 nonprofit counseling agencies and nearly 81,000 people will receive housing stability counseling. HSCP counseling will be provided in all 50 states including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Territories of Puerto Rico and Guam.

Federal funding for this grant was authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act, which Rep. Davids voted to support earlier this year. NeighborWorks America is a national, nonpartisan nonprofit that offers grant funding, peer exchange, technical assistance, evaluation tools, and access to training as the nation’s leading trainer of housing and community development professionals.

Rep. Davids backs federal strategy for Medicaid expansion in Kansas

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, right, spoke Wednesday in favor of a federal strategy to expand Medicaid, at the Community Health Council of Wyandotte County. (Photo from Rep. Davids’ staff)

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-3rd Dist., said on Wednesday that she would support a new federal strategy to expand Medicaid in states including Kansas, where legislatures have repeatedly blocked it.

Rep. Davids called for the upcoming budget reconciliation package to both continue current expansion incentives and include a federal plan to expand Medicaid coverage. In a news conference in Kansas City, Kansas, Rep. Davids was joined by local advocates and health care professionals who have seen the need to expand Medicaid here.

Rep. Davids successfully fought to include increased financial incentives for Medicaid expansion in the American Rescue Plan, which became law in March of this year. Under those incentives, Medicaid expansion in Kansas would be completely paid for through the first two years, after which the federal government would continue to cover 90% of the cost.

Despite this, Kansas remains one of only 12 states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid, leaving 165,000 Kansans without access to affordable health care. Rep.Davids renewed her call for a new, federal strategy to step in and close the coverage gap in those 12 non-expansion states.

“During this time of uncertainty, no Kansan should have to worry about whether they will receive the care that they and their families need to stay healthy,” Rep. Davids said. “That’s why I’m fighting to continue the financial incentives that make it essentially free for Kansas to expand Medicaid, and to explore a federal option that would close the coverage gap even if the legislature continues to block expansion. Kansans have made their voices clear on this, and it’s time to act.”

“Medicaid expansion isn’t an abstract policy discussion. We currently have patients who refuse additional services because they can’t afford them—but with Medicaid, they could. It would have a huge impact on our patients and on our community as a whole,” said Patrick Sallee, president and CEO of Vibrant Health. “Plus, research shows that when people have insurance, they use it. I’m glad that Rep. Davids is exploring every avenue to make affordable health care available to more Kansans.”

“The majority of Kansans support Medicaid expansion but the issue has been bogged down by politics in Topeka,” said April Holman, executive director of Alliance for a Healthy Kansas. “The federal approach to closing the coverage gap will provide long-awaited relief to Kansas consumers, providers, and communities.”

One option to cover the more than 4 million Americans left vulnerable by states’ inaction is the Medicaid Saves Lives Act. This Davids-backed legislation would create a federal Medicaid-style program to extend coverage eligibility to all individuals under 138% of the federal poverty level, establishing a permanent solution for the failure of non-expansion states like Kansas to extend the program. As Congress already paid for Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act, this federal Medicaid program should require no additional offsets, according to a spokesman.

Research confirms that Medicaid expansion increases access to care, improves financial security, and leads to better health outcomes, and failure to expand Medicaid disproportionately affects people of color, as 60% of people in the coverage gap are Black, Hispanic, Asian, or Pacific Islander. Additionally, a recent report found that Kansas could increase its economic output by $17 billion and add an estimated 23,000 new jobs if the state chose to expand Medicaid.

  • Information from Rep. Davids’ office