Economic policy

Kansas Economic Policy Conference to Address Policy Interventions in Times of Crisis

LAWRENCE — When the novel coronavirus pandemic hit the United States in March 2020, government at all levels had to manage a public health crisis, continue to provide essential services and avert economic disaster. However, public health interventions, such as stay-at-home orders and contact tracing, have received mixed reception from the public and mixed support from government officials. The 2020 Kansas Economic Policy Conference, to be held virtually on October 22, will address the question: What is the role of government in a crisis?

“Some people think the government is a problem. But when an international crisis like COVID-19 occurs, we look to government for solutions,” said Donna Ginther, Roy A. Roberts Professor Emeritus of Economics and director of the Institute for Policy & Social Research (PRRO). “I am delighted that this year’s Kansas Economic Policy Conference will address the important question of the role of government in addressing the current COVID-19 crisis. What has worked and what is that hasn’t worked? And what should state and local governments do as the crisis continues and potentially worsens with the onset of winter?”

Speakers and panels will approach this subject from several angles. Ginther will deliver a keynote address on the Kansas economy, and Bill Murphy, assistant secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce, will deliver a keynote address on economic development in the context of the pandemic.

The conference will continue with conversations on public health, education and broadband, and policy solutions to move from crisis to recovery. Several Kansas lawmakers and policymakers will serve as panelists:

  • Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers
  • State Senator Carolyn McGinn (R-Sedgwick)
  • State Representative Stephanie Clayton (D-Overland Park)
  • State Representative Troy Waymaster (R-Bunker Hill)
  • Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary
  • Maj. Gen. David Weishaar, the Adjutant General of Kansas
  • Shannon Kimball, Lawrence Public Schools Board of Education.

The conversations will also feature Brad Bergsma, vice president of information technology and athletics at Northwest Kansas Technical College, and Catherine Moyer, CEO and general manager of Pioneer Communications.

KU researchers Tami Gurley, associate professor of population health; Ward Lyles, associate professor of urban planning; and Germaine Halegoua, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies, will also contribute to the conversations.

Jim McLean, managing director of Kansas News Service, and Deb Miller, director of the KU Public Management Center at the School of Public Affairs & Administration, will moderate the conversations.

The conference has been streamed online for several years now, and this year it will be held entirely online. Thanks in part to funding from the CARES University Center Act (Coronavirus, Relief, and Economic Security Act) of the Economic Development Administration, the conference is free and will be captioned live. The afternoon will end with a virtual happy hour so that attendees can chat directly with each other.

“Hosting the conference online will ensure the safety of all attendees and will still provide us with an outlet to discuss economic challenges in Kansas. One of the benefits of hosting the conference in a virtual format is that we are able to welcome all Kansans and others interested in the Kansas economy into free access to our annual conference,” said Jena. Gunter, deputy director of the PRRO.

PRRO staff, in collaboration with Ginther, have been collecting and disseminating information on the spread and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic since March. Resources are collected online at and include presentations by Ginther on the economic consequences of the pandemic, briefings on federal stimulus funds in Kansas, reports focused on a healthy recovery in five Kansas counties, and a gallery of maps and charts.

Registration for the Kansas Economic Policy Conference is free and open to anyone who wishes to attend. To visit to see the detailed afternoon program and to register.