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Issues with unemployment continue after KS Dept. of Labor secretary steps down

Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 9:44 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The Kansas Department of Labor secretary stepped down more than two weeks ago and the state took over, but still, Kansans are facing issues with unemployment payments.

Daily, Eyewitness News continues to get emails and calls from Kansans who haven’t received payments and can’t get through over the phone or online to reach someone with the department of labor.

More than three weeks ago, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly made a promise to Kansans going through the unemployment system to improve response times and clear out the backlog of payments. Still, some Kansans haven’t received a dime from the state.

Four months have passed since the COVID-19 pandemic left more than 200,000 Kansans out of work. Many are still waiting for payment or even a response from the department of labor.

“It just ends up feeling like I don’t matter, you know,” said Janine Wollenberg, one of many out of work due to the pandemic. “And I want to say, ‘yes I do.' I have children. I have grandchildren.”

After now-former Kansas Department of Labor Secretary Delia Garcia stepped down on June 22, Kelly hired outside specialists to fix multiple technical issues concerning the distribution of unemployment payments and apologized for the wait.

“I take responsibility. We have been too slow to process unemployment claims,” Kelly said.

Nearly three weeks later, payments are still delayed. And while Kansans wait, bills are still due on time each month.

Eyewitness News Wednesday reached out to the department of labor but did not hear back. Among the questions we’re asking are: What changes have been made to improve response times? What is the backlog for Kansanswho still have not received payments? And, what is the plan to address the backlog?

The Wichita Workforce Center says there are currently more than 30,000 jobs available in Kansas. The center offers free services in career counseling, resume review and has scholarships available for some training and certification programs.

Kansas Works is hosting a virtual job fair at the end of July.

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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