Out-of-work Kansans wondering what’s next after end to federal unemployment benefits

Federal unemployment benefits to end Saturday
Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 5:40 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Federal unemployment benefits end nationwide this week and it has many out-of-work Kansans unsure of what’s next. Some states chose to end the programs early, but Kansas Governor Laura Kelly refused to do so despite pressure from lawmakers and businesses.

Under the CARES Act, three federal programs were put in place for 79 weeks. That expiration comes Saturday, Sept. 4. The programs included $300 weekly payments, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). The three programs have been a lifeline for some Kansans during the pandemic, including Rita Laham.

Like many unemployed Kansans, Laham has faced frustrations with the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL). She said she’s spent countless hours on the phone, waiting to toake with the labor department about her unemployment claims.

“I, just like thousands, want to be paid,” she said.

Laham said she’s been receiving PEUC since June of last year. Without that money, she’s not sure what the future will look like. With the delta variant surging throughout Kansas, she said looking for a new job isn’t a simple process.

“Trying to find a job is not easy,” she said. “I build planes. I’m not trying to go backwards in life. I’ve got bills to pay like anybody else, car payments. I’m not trying to go backwards.”

Thousands of fellow Kansans are in the same tough position, one that will only get more difficult after Saturday’s sunset on the three federal programs.

“Unemployment in Kansas will return to its pre-pandemic state. So only benefits that will be left is 16 weeks of state benefits and regular unemployment,” Laham said.

Some claimants are still owed for weeks of unpaid federal benefits. KDOL said even though three federal programs end Saturday, the department will continue to pay those out.

“Whether that’s their cases are returned on appeal or an issue’s adjudicated or a technical issue that’s prevented that payment, they will be paid the weeks they’re owed,” KDOL Deputy Secretary Peter Brady said. “There’s no deadline for when those payments have to be made. So we’ll keep working through those until every last person who’s owed benefits gets paid.”

Recipients of the expiring federal programs will get one more payment next week and can begin filing their claims at noon Sunday, Sept. 5.

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