Lawmakers push to reimburse unemployed Kansans for late payments

Local News

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Some Kansas lawmakers are pushing to help unemployed Kansans who are suffering financial losses from delayed unemployment payments.

Lawmakers in the state’s House of Representatives debated a bill regarding payments of certain claims against the state Tuesday evening.

In a hurried attempt, Rep. Helgerson, D-Eastborough, moved to amend the bill, calling for the state to be held accountable for delays in payments to unemployed Kansans.

“How many of you have had to refer them to the department, ‘hopefully they get a call back, hopefully they get it addressed’, and a month, two months later, they don’t get back with us, and we never hear from them,” Helgerson said, as he described his experiences with trying to get constituents to help. “I don’t have a fiscal note, I can’t tell you how many people are there, but neither can the department.”

Helgerson proposed that the money would come from the state general fund.

The amendment called for the state to reimburse an individual for the loss they incurred from the state not paying claims in a timely manner. This would apply to unemployment insurance benefit months between March 1, 2020 and December 31, 2022.

The amendment states the following:

“Any compensation approved pursuant to subsection (a) shall be equal to 10% of any
payment delayed to the claimant or $1,000, whichever is less, but in any case shall not be less
than $250.”

The introduction of the amendment sparked a lively debate among lawmakers.

Representative Mari Lynn Poskin, D-Leawood, supported the measure, voicing her concerns with issues people have experienced in her area, and other constituents who have called her office for help.

“I have personally responded to over 1,000 KDOL emails,” Poskin said. “They need redress, they need ways to stay in their house.”

Representative Susan Estes, R-Wichita, and other lawmakers also rose in support of the measure, detailing ongoing issues they’ve experienced with the state’s labor department.

“I like the idea that it’s time to call this administration out after over a year of our constituents calling us and not being able to collect on unemployment funds,” said Representative Tarwater, R-Stilwell. “This is ridiculous what’s going on.”

Other lawmakers noted it would be a futile attempt to bring this measure to the Joint Committee on Special Claims Against the State.

“I agree that this has been a fiasco,” said Representative Kyle Hoffman, R-Coldwater.

Hoffman added while the amendment showed good intent, this wouldn’t help speed up the process for payments, and could potentially overwhelm the committee with an even higher influx in claims.

Representative Bradley Ralph, R-Dodge City, vice-chair of the state’s Joint Committee on Special Claims Against the State, emphasized the committee receives a large number of claims, ranging from about 100-150, to deal with in about four days time.

“The overwhelming volume of claims that would be submitted to that special claims committee is not something that they’re in any position able to contemplate or deal with either staff-wise or between the legislators that are sitting on that committee,” Ralph said. “I have constituents, who are suffering. We really need to do something for those folks. I’m just afraid that this isn’t going to do it.”

Ralph added even if the claims are submitted, the claim can be refused and the person can be sent back to exhaust administrative or legal remedies under current committee procedures.

While the amendment failed, lawmakers hinted this may be brought up again. Helgerson said it was recommended the committee reject the amendment so that it could be brought up at a later point in time.

“The state should bear some of the responsibility and that’s what this amendment does,” Helgerson said.

Click here, to watch the House Proceedings from Tuesday.

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