TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – It’s been more than a month since frequent issues at the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL) forced Delia Garcia to step down as secretary. Now, a new secretary has taken over and made some changes.
In June, Governor Laura Kelly announced that her Deputy Chief of Staff, Ryan Wright, would be taking over as Labor Secretary until a permanent replacement could be found. Secretary Wright says he has been working, along with KDOL staff to make improvements to the unemployment system, but some Kansans haven’t yet seen a difference.
Chloe Hough has been struggling with KDOL since applying for unemployment in March. Now, after months of receiving her benefits, the department has suddenly suspended her payments, saying there is an issue with the information she’s provided.
“I just find it a little strange, like why now, when my information is accurate,” asked Chloe.
Chloe says she can’t get in touch with anyone from KDOL to answer her questions or reinstate her unemployment benefits.
“You call, there’s no one answering, there’s no voicemail, then the line clicks,” explained Chloe. “You can’t get a hold of anyone.”
Lack of communication and long call wait times have been a common issue for the department. When the pandemic first hit Kansas, KDOL was receiving up to a million phone calls per day and only had 20 call center employees. Now, Secretary Wright says the call volume has gone down substantially and more workers have been hired. Wright added that he is working to hire and train even more call center staff. On Monday, the department began to streamline the call process by dividing up calls among staff based on the issue the caller has.
“If they need a password reset, they can go to those folks that deal with password resets, but if you have a more complicated issue with one of your claims, for example, then we can get you to one of those experts,” explained Secretary Wright.
Wright expects this process will help staff quickly get through more calls, moving forward. Additionally, an online chat bot has been added to the GetKansasBenefits.gov website to help people with their questions.
Chloe added one of the big things the department can also do is be more forthcoming with information, whether that’s via phone or email, or even on social media or the website.
“I feel like a lot of people would be less stressed just having more information,” Chloe said.
Secretary Wright said he understands that there is still a lot of work to do at the Department of Labor, including gaining the public’s trust back.
“We know people are frustrated, we know people are hurting,” said Wright. “We want to be helpful and not hurtful in this process.”
If you qualify and have applied for unemployment benefits, but have not received payments from KDOL or have missed payments, Secretary Wright is assuring Kansans they will receive that money.