Business Buzz

Special to The Kansan

COVID-19 testing, small business grants approved

TOPEKA — The State Finance Council recently unanimously approved investing up to $45 million more in COVID-19 testing across Kansas and to provide $20 million more for small businesses.

“Today’s actions will bolster our Unified Testing Strategy and allow us to provide up to one million COVID-19 tests by the end of the year,” Gov. Laura Kelly said. “I want to thank the State Finance Council for supporting the health priorities of our state and increasing funds for small businesses, which are essential for our economic recovery.”

The $65 million approved is from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which is part of the federal CARES Act. After receiving proposals from public and private labs across the state, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment determined it could invest up to $95 million to implement its unified testing strategy. Previously, SFC had authorized $50 million for COVID-19 testing, and with today’s actions, the Office of Recovery will have the ability to invest up to $95 million in testing.

SFC approved an additional $20 million for small business grants. About $35 million has already been awarded in small business grants.

Additionally, SFC approved providing the Office of Recovery the authority to redistribute any unused funds among previously approved programs. The CRF requires funds to be used by the Dec. 30 deadline.

The Office of Recovery oversees all the CRF programs and will shift dollars from program to program based on need, demand, and the ability to implement by the deadline.

“With only 39 working days remaining before December 30, we need a dynamic approach, and I want to thank State Finance Council for providing us the flexibility to deliver timely investments to Kansans,” executive director Julie Lorenz said. “We know our state’s needs exceed the funds available, and we’re committed to leveraging these dollars to help as many Kansans as we can.”

Approximately $25 million of the CRF remains in reserve. SFC will meet again next month to approve the final investments.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas grants funds

WICHITA — NetWork Kansas and the Kansas Health Foundation announced the first corporate sponsor for the Kansas Community Investment Fund is Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas.

BCBSKS will award NetWork Kansas a Blue Health Initiative Trailblazer grant totaling $150,000 annually for the next three years.

Launched in January 2019 through a partnership between NetWork Kansas and KHF, KCIF provides loans to for-profit and nonprofit organizations that increase access to care, education attainment, community and civic engagement, and promote healthy behaviors. Since the launch, KCIF has approved loans to 17 projects totaling nearly $1 million.

“We are thrilled to receive a Trailblazer grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas,” said Steve Radley, president and CEO of NetWork Kansas. “Their company is already empowering communities to create innovative solutions to advance the health of Kansas citizens and we’re pleased to work alongside them to increase community investment.”

“The Kansas Health Foundation is excited to bring on Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas as the first corporate sponsor of KCIF,” said Deanna Van Hersh, interim executive vice president. “Their commitment to invest in businesses and non-profits across Kansas will help improve the health of Kansans and also strengthen our communities.”

Blue Health Initiative Trailblazer grants are awarded to organizations who are actively working to find solutions to address the social determinants of health in Kansas communities. The main areas of focus include improving access to care and health equity. The Kansas Community Investment Fund offers this community driven approach by empowering local nonprofit and for-profit entrepreneurs to develop solutions specific to each community.

The grant will be used in a variety of ways to support projects in the BCBSKS service area. Grant examples include technical assistance support for nonprofits and businesses in underserved areas and minority populations, as well as projects that bring together a diverse group of organizations to create inclusive healthy community environments.

BCBSKS is funding this grant in response to the direct needs presented from the COVID-19 global pandemic. KCIF will target the funds toward healthy behaviors, access to care, education attainment, and civic and community engagement.