Kansas’ U.S. senators announced Friday they are partnering on a bill to extend how long local governments, state agencies and health care facilities have to spend federal COVID-19 relief funds, a key request from many stakeholders.


Kansas received more than $1.25 billion in CARES Act funds earlier this year and a state taskforce has earmarked almost all of those funds for counties, as well as projects ranging from rural broadband to helping improve the state’s COVID-19 testing strategy.


But throughout that process, stakeholders have been cognizant of the looming Dec. 31 deadline to spend all the money. Any remaining funds not spent by that point will return to the federal government.


But both of Kansas’ Republican U.S. senators, Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts, announced legislation, dubbed the Remove Impediments for a Successful Economic Recovery Act, to extend the deadline to December 2022


"By providing an extension to CRF payments, we are ensuring local governments throughout Kansas and the country are able to utilize this critical funding in the best, most effective way possible and within a more reasonable timeframe," Roberts said in a statement.


County governments, some of which have yet to receive their share of CARES Act funds from the state, have been concerned that the Dec. 31 deadline puts them under the gun to make use of the money, whether by helping businesses acquire personal protective equipment or helping municipalities within their borders.


"As soon as we heard that the money was going to have to be spent by the end of the year, all of our brains exploded," said Crawford County Commissioner Jeremy Johnson.


The deadline has made it challenging to use funds in areas like broadband deployment or other infrastructure projects, which are likely to be difficult to complete by year’s end.


And nursing homes and other health care facilities yet untouched by the virus have said they would like to save any funds they got from the CARES Act for later, in the event infections occur in 2021.


That is especially true, long-term care advocates say, in the event flu season and COVID-19 strain resources further.


"I need that money Jan. 1," Holly Noble, a representative from the Kansas Adult Care Executives Association, told the Joint KanCare Oversight Committee on Monday.


The legislation mirrors a similar bill from U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., to extend the deadline to 2021.