Kansas Legislature seeks property tax, rent rebates for businesses closed due to COVID-19

Tammy Ljungblad/tljungblad@kcstar.com

Kansas businesses shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions could soon be eligible for rebates on property taxes or rent paid during that time.

On their ceremonial final day of the legislative session the Kansas House and Senate nearly unanimously approved a bill allocating $50 million in federal COVID-19 relief dollars to the rebates.

Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat, was the sole no vote in the House.

Businesses could seek up to $5,000 per tax year during which they faced shutdowns or restrictions imposed by a government entity. Businesses who received more than $150,000 in other COVID-19 relief funding would be ineligible.

The legislation passed with bipartisan support after dying at the tail end of the legislative session last year.

Sen. Tom Holland, a Baldwin City Democrat, said the legislation was aimed at small local businesses that lost out on revenue they would have gained from foot traffic in the spring of 2020 but couldn’t access federal grants.

“For those businesses that actually went out of business because of COVID they can actually get some benefit out of this,” Holland said.

Though Republican lawmakers supported the bill, Sen. Caryn Tyson, a Parker Republican, said lawmakers should be careful not to allow Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to take credit for the rebate.

“I know that she’s going to take credit for it when she shut the businesses down,” Tyson said.

Kelly issued a sweeping stay-at-home order in March 2020 closing non-essential businesses for about a month in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Kelly’s order mirrored similar actions by local and state governments across the country. Kelly has not yet said whether she supports the bill, but she has shown broad support for tax breaks this year.

House Democrats unsuccessfully sought to send the bill back to seek a more aggressive implementation of the food sales tax elimination than the bill passed in the Legislature last month.

“We should look at giving tax breaks to our average working class families,” House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat, said.