TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Unemployment in Kansas fell to 7.5% in June 2020 from 10% in May 2020. While the unemployment numbers are trending downward, this is still a substantial increase from June of 2019 which had just 3.1% unemployment.
In order to assist states with coronavirus related expenses, the U.S. House of Representative and the U.S. Senate passed the CARES Act in March. Under the CARES Act was the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), this gave an additional $600 weekly payment to people getting unemployment benefits. FPUC payments were distributed from March 29 to July 25, 2020.
States looked to the U.S. House and Senate for a second coronavirus relief package, that would potentially include more unemployment assistance. However, after weeks of debate between democrats and republicans, no bill has been passed. The Senate has adjourned until the next vote which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled for September 8, 2020.
Because of the standstill in Congress, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would give people an additional $400 in weekly unemployment benefits, retroactive to August 1, 2020. Under the order, the federal government would pay $300 of the weekly benefits and the state would be responsible for the remaining $100. States would also be responsible for building a new computer system to disperse this money.
Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, says the President’s executive orders are a good idea.
“The President laying out some things that are pretty important to everyday Kansans, people who are unemployed, or people who can’t pay their rent, landlords who aren’t being paid, those are pretty basic things,” said Senator Moran. “The President forcing the hand of Congress, and I hope that’s the case, to get us to do what needs to be done. That’s a good thing.”
But the Kansas Department of Labor is telling people to not expect that additional $400 yet. The legality of the President’s executive order has been called into question as to whether the President can redirect Congressionally appropriated funds.
Some Governors are expressing concerns, not only for the legality of the President’s order but also for the cost to the state. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has recently stayed quiet on the unemployment issues in the state. She assigned her Deputy Chief of Staff Ryan Wright to take over as acting secretary of the Kansas Department of Labor after former Secretary Delia Garcia stepped down in June. However, Lauren Fitzgerald, press secretary for Kelly, says the governor has not rejected the idea of the $400 additional weekly payment.
“We are looking at a number of factors, including the legality of the order, and are awaiting further guidance from our Federal partners on how this program will be administered before taking any further action.”Lauren Fitzgerald, Press Secretary, Office of Governor Laura Kelly
While more FPUC payments may not be hitting bank accounts anytime soon, some Kansans are still waiting on the benefits they are owed from previous months. Acting Secretary for KDOL Ryan Wright says that money will be sent to people.
“If you are owed these benefits, you will get paid them. We will make sure that happens,” Secretary Wright said. “You will not lose benefits you’re entitled to just because there’s an administrative backlog or a delay, that will not impact your benefits. You will get paid those benefits.”