Rahjes Report - March 20, 2020

Hello from Agra.  Everyday continues to bring new information and new challenges to all of us. I did not issue a report last week, as there was so much information coming out on Conronavirus/COVID-19 that talking about non-related bills did not seem on many people’s minds.

As you are aware, Governor Kelly has issued a “Safer at Home” declaration on Saturday, and there still a number of questions.   There are a couple of websites to get the latest information: kdheks.gov and kansastogether.com. If you do not have access to the internet, hopefully a family member or friend can share information.  Also, local media like this newspaper or online publication plus the local radio stations do a great job keeping you updated as new information is available.

The governor’s office has also created an email account specifically for business owners:  keff@ks.gov . If you have specific questions on what you can and can’t do this is one of the best sources to gain a direct response from the Governor’s office.

I have been on several conference calls and remote meetings learning what I can about the best way to handle this pandemic, everyday we learn more and in a non-political fashion we have worked on solutions.  Some have tried to make political points and that is unfortunate. I have been in contact with the Governor’s office several times and they always look for answers to your concerns. There will be a time for politics, but now is not one of them. 

Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab wanted to remind citizens: Under Executive Order 20-13, the deadline for filing 2019 tax returns for individual income tax, fiduciary income tax, corporate income tax, and privilege tax with due dates between April 15 and July 15, 2020 has been extended. The annual report deadline for those entities has also been extended to July 15, 2020.

Also, from the Kansas Department of Agriculture: Governor Laura Kelly has issued a statewide “stay home” order (Executive Order No. 20-16), it is important to emphasize that those food and agriculture businesses must keep a strong focus on their essential functions and follow safety protocols.

The Governor’s Kansas Essential Function Framework, outlined in the executive order, clearly identifies food and agriculture businesses as essential functions that are exempt from the stay home order. KDA will continue to provide support and guidance to those businesses as needed, but urges all of those in the food and agriculture industry to scrutinize their activities and staffing and limit them to those which are essential to the food supply chain, public health and safety, and protection of animal health and welfare.

The food and agriculture industry truly serve an essential role in this statewide response, and all those who work within that industry are playing an important part in keeping the state fed, healthy and safe. “Since Kansas is the fifth largest state in regard to value of agricultural production, our state’s role in the production of food, fuel and fiber remains critical for consumers everywhere,” said Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam. “KDA is grateful to these dedicated Kansans who are working every day throughout this crisis and appreciates their commitment.”

KDA reminds those food and agriculture businesses that while they continue to operate, they must — to the extent possible without significant disruption to essential functions — use telework capabilities to avoid meeting in person. Any essential functions being performed on-site, or in-person must — to the extent possible without significant disruption to essential functions — follow appropriate safety protocols, including maintaining a six-foot distance between individuals and limiting gatherings to fewer than 10 people. When not performing an essential function or traveling to or from work to perform an essential function, individuals must adhere to the stay home order.

In addition, all food and agriculture businesses should continue to follow all Kansas Department of Health and Environment protocols to protect the health of their employees: regular handwashing; routine cleaning of all frequently touched surfaces; adequate supplies of soap and water, hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes, and tissues; promoting proper coughing and sneezing etiquette; and especially sending home any employee who is sick or who has been exposed to COVID-19.

All of these efforts are critical to slowing the spread of the virus and limiting the impact on local healthcare workers and hospitals. Although many rural areas have not seen the effect of the virus thus far, the health care system in those rural areas has a more limited capacity and could feel the impact quickly if precautions are not taken now.

Information about the state’s response to this emergency event can be found the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s COVID-19 Resource Center at www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus, and ag-related support and guidance can be found on the KDA website at www.agriculture.ks.gov/coronavirus.

When will the Kansas Legislature return? We don’t know. We were scheduled to come back April 27th, but now we are waiting for leadership to decide when it is time to return to finish the business of the Kansas Legislature.  While, there were many bills remaining to have a debate and votes taken, I will assume if we return the focus will be on recovery and moving forward from Conronovirus/COVID-19.  We will be dealing with a number of economic challenges and at this time we don’t know where the road to recovery will take us. One thing I do know is the road begins by supporting our local businesses. These family operations are the ones that help sponsor the ball teams, buy yearbook ads and support almost any cause of function that goes on in our communities.  While it is convenient to shop on-line, and some time you have no choice, but those companies don’t support you and your family like the local hardware store or restaurant.  The last few weeks, I continue to hear stories of good neighbors being good neighbors and I am sure that will continue.  Be patient and kind. Wash your hands. Practice social distancing (many farmers and ranchers do this daily). 

If I can help answer any questions, or if you just want to talk, I am available either by email: kenrahjes@gmail.com or call my cell phone: (785) 302-8416.   It is my honor to serve you as your state representative. Together, we will get through this.