UPDATE: This story has been updated as some businesses say they did not agree to have their names on the letter to the governor.
TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — In a letter to Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, businesses claim that they can’t find workers because of extra money going into unemployment benefits, and they want her to end the bonus.
The Kansas Chamber of Commerce said it is the driving force behind the letter and shared it with KSN.
It lists 181 businesses, including Airbus Americas, Inc., Excel Industries, GraceMed Health Clinic, Greater Wichita YMCA, Center Industries, Kansas Bankers Association, Vornado, and Kansas Farm Bureau. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly previously said she won’t end additional pandemic relief benefits going to unemployed Kansans but also said the “final decision” hasn’t been made yet.
But several businesses that are on the list say they did not agree to have their names on a letter to the governor and/or did not know about the letter.
A spokesperson for Airbus Americas says he reached out to everyone who would have been authorized to approve the company’s inclusion in the letter.
“I can now confirm that Airbus Americas had no prior knowledge of this letter and had not agreed to be listed on it as one of the signing parties,” James Darcy, head of external communications, North America, said.
GraceMed Health Clinic said it also did not authorize being on the list. It says some employees signed the list, thinking it was just personal and that the organization’s name would not be listed. A spokesperson says the employees’ responses should not have been taken as speaking for GraceMed.
The Greater Wichita YMCA said an employee, who did not have authorization, signed a letter from the Society for Human Resource Management. The Greater Wichita YMCA says it has formally requested to have its name removed from the letter.
Hutchinson Public Library posted a message on social media saying it did not sign the letter.
“I can unequivocally say that the library does not endorse this issue, nor has a stance on this issue,” wrote Gregg Wamsley, library director. “Had the library been clearly asked to take a stance on ending enhanced unemployment benefits, the answer would have been ‘no.'”
Metro Courier and Lawrence Journal-World also say they did not intend to be part of the letter.
Sherriene Jones-Sontag, vice-president of communications at the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, said the Kansas chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management shared the letter and other Human Resource professionals shared the letter and gathered names. She said those names were all combined and sent to the Chamber to be added to the letter.
I assure you that every employer listed on the letter confirmed with their business organization that they wanted to be listed. The overwhelming support of the letter and the variety of Kansas employers listed are testaments to the lack of available workers in the state.”Sherriene Jones-Sontag, Kansas Chamber of Commerce
Some of the businesses and organizations confirm to KSN that they do support the letter and did agree to have their names added. They include Cornejo & Sons, Disability Supports of the Great Plains, Kansas Grain and Feed Association, Kansas Livestock Association, Prestressed Concrete Company, Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association, Lewis Street Glass, and Renew Kansas Biofuels Association.
KSN has reached out to other companies, but we have not heard back yet.
In the letter, the businesses made their case that they were operating at a reduced capacity during the pandemic and now cannot return to full operations because they can’t fill their jobs. The letter said there are more than 57,000 job openings in Kansas and 58,468 people receiving unemployment benefits.
Our coalition would respectfully ask that the state end the additional UI federal benefits. We believe this additional benefit was an important short-term solution to help individuals who were adversely impacted at the start of the pandemic. However, 13 months later, many employers are finding it nearly impossible to fully staff their business which impacts the supply chain and timely delivery of goods and services.”181 Kansas businesses in a letter to Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly
The letter does not just ask the governor to refuse the federal pandemic aid, but rather find a new use for it.
We would advocate to redirect available federal dollars toward incentivizing return-to-work with a signing bonus program, temporary childcare assistance and training/retraining initiatives for Kansans who might have lost their jobs during the pandemic but have struggled to re-enter the workforce.”181 Kansas businesses in a letter to Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly
The letter says Oklahoma and Montana are offering a one-time $1,200 bonus for anyone who returns to work, and Arizona is offering $2,000.
Read the full letter from the coalition of Kansas businesses below. The second and third pages show the full list of businesses that the Kansas Chamber claims signed onto this letter.