Citing a lack of congressional action, Gov. Laura Kelly announced Monday she would again issue an executive order halting evictions and foreclosures in the state.
The moratorium would last for two weeks, but if the U.S. Senate doesn’t return in that time to pass a more sweeping halt on evictions and foreclosures, Kelly said, she will issue another order.
"No Kansan should be kicked out of their home during their pandemic," she said at a Statehouse news conference. "That’s just wrong."
Kelly said she didn’t believe counties could opt out of the order as they have opted out of similar edicts requiring masks in public spaces.
The governor issued similar orders earlier this year at the height of the pandemic but allowed them to lapse in early June.
Like those previous policies, a tenant or homeowner would need to demonstrate that their failure to pay was tied to a financial hardship related to COVID-19.
"This doesn’t allow somebody to decide they just don’t want to pay their rent," she said. "It has to be pandemic-related. They’re unemployed, they don’t have the income to pay their rent because of the pandemic."
The move comes as the state reported 1,282 new positive cases of COVID-19 since Friday, as well as three new deaths due to the virus.
Aid also could be on the way to support landlords suffering a loss of rent due to moratorium, Kelly said.
While such support is in early discussions, Kelly said it could be run through the Office of Recovery like other COVID-19-related relief initiatives.
"We really do understand. Some of them have gone a long time without being able to collect rent," she said. "They’ve got expenses too so we want to figure out a way to support them while they support other Kansans."
One of the factors Kelly cited in her new order was Congress’ hesitation to extend the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, the $600 a week increase in benefits those on unemployment received.
But Kelly didn’t commit to participating in a potential new program created by President Donald Trump in a recent executive order.
That program would a new $400-a-week unemployment assistance program to help those experiencing financial turmoil during the pandemic, with the president indicating that $100 of that weekly payment would come from the states.
That last component has given Kelly and her administration pause, with the governor saying the state "is looking at all that."
While the federal government has told states they can use federal relief funding via the CARES Act, much of that money has been already been accounted for in Kansas. The new program could cost the state upwards of $40 million a month, Kelly said.
And the Kansas Department of Labor, which has been plagued by issues in connecting residents with benefits, has indicated it would have to create a new platform to administer the new program, a move that could delay its implementation.
The easiest solution, Kelly said, was for Congress to take action to "save the states the hassle."
"I think what all of your questions are suggesting is that we should not go this route and Congress should come back and implement what has already been put in place," she said. "There already is a structure for it, there already is a funding source for it."