Kansas lawmakers approve $254 million in federal funding, turn focus to improving internet connectivity

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – 254 million dollars are being spread throughout Kansas to help with coronavirus relief.

This is part of more than $1 billion of federal funding the state received.

400 million dollars has gone directly to counties. Now $100 million will go to public health, $78 million to economic development, and $74 million toward education.

“Let’s get this money out into the field as quickly as we can, but also as efficiently as we possibly can,” said Tom Bell, a SPARK Taskforce member.

The taskforce is providing recommendations to lawmakers on how to spend the money.

Next week the taskforce will be proposing $60 million to address internet connectivity needs.

Bell said this would help provide better telehealth, remote working options, and distance learning for students.

“This is a significant amount of money, and we can do a lot in this area if we focus that in and create a better system for all those areas that we’ve been talking about,” Bell said.

Education advocates said virtual learning can be difficult in some communities.

“A lot of it relies on your hardware, your connection, all of those good things, so when those things fail, you have to not have failed to plan,” Marcus Baltzell said.

Baltzell is the director of communications at the Kansas National Education Association.

Advocates said getting quality internet for teachers and students is critical during coronavirus.

“Being able to connect requires infrastructure and that the internet service providers, the companies themselves, look at this as a central need and not a way to profit,” Baltzell said.

The SPARK Taskforce still has more than $300 million of federal funds that it will need to provide recommendations to lawmakers on where it should go.

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