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Kan. lawmakers address continued concerns with department of labor

Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 6:11 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Eyewitness News has heard from many each day, by phone, email and social media, all saying they can’t get through online or by phone to get their unemployment benefits. The Kansas Department of Labor said its website is back up and running with a much-needed security upgrade, but many say issues they’ve faced for months continue.

Thousands of Kansans like Nancy Publow have had enough.

“My funds deteriorate, they’re gone,” she said. “I don’t know how we’re going to pay rent.”

After five weeks with no benefits and hundreds of failed attempts to talk with a KDOL representative, Publow said she doubts she’ll be able to make it through the month.

“I have a pacemaker, I have a heart condition, I have an autoimmune disorder, I’m type-2 diabetic,” she said. “I’ve got medical bills being sent to collections.”

One issue after another continues, from fraudulent claims and payments not being sent, to a lack of communication between Kansans and the department of labor.

“The reason why this system is broken is because it was not properly funded,” said Rep. Stephanie Clayton, D-Johnson County. “There was an opportunity to fund int in 2011. I think that shows that if we break government, it doesn’t work the way we need it to.”

About $37 million will go toward updating KDOL’s outdated system by the fall of 2022. Lawmakers are meeting now to figure out what to do in the meantime since Kansans need immediate help. Those who can’t get through to a representative are encouraged to keep trying.

“What do you have to say to them? These people are calling hundreds of times a day, what should they do? Well, the temporary fix to the communication issue is for Kansans to contact their state senators and state representatives,” Clayton said. “I’ve had a great deal of success helping my constituents, and even people that don’t live in my district, get the assistance they need.”

To contact your state representatives directly, visit the Kansas legislature’s website. There, you can find your representatives by entering your address, or by searching their name. On each state lawmaker’s page, you can find their contact information.

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