Kansas woman speaks out after going months without pandemic assistance, KDOL says thousands of applicants unanswered

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Cristina Buchanan applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in July and got a letter back about her eligibility. Four months later, she still hasn’t received anything.  

“The state puts out there, ‘okay, we’re here to help you,’ but then there’s no help,” Buchanan said. 

Buchanan left her job in February, right before the pandemic hit.  

She was denied unemployment. Then, she applied for pandemic unemployment assistance and got a letter that her claim was being processed. But, that would soon prove to be another failed promise.   

Buchanan’s family is feeling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic first-hand. With three kids in quarantine doing online learning and no way of affording a babysitter, she’s stuck at home without work and starting to lose hope.  

“We can’t do anything, I mean it’s like scraping by just to have food in the house. I mean this is our life,” the single mother, who’s been reaching out to family and friends for help, said.  

Buchanan is one of the thousands of applicants that have applied for unemployment insurance benefits and haven’t received help from the Kansas Department of Labor.   

After seeing a family friend who’s working and didn’t apply for assistance receive a letter about benefits in the mail, Buchanan decided to speak up.  

Department of Labor officials blame an outdated computer system. Some lawmakers question whether that’s to blame for the high volume of unaddressed unemployment and fraud claims.   

However, department officials said they’ve managed to get through more than half of the claims since last summer.  

KSN initially reached out to the communications team for the Kansas Department of Labor for comment, but they declined an interview, saying “particularly because the program ends next month.”

But, for the nearly 8,000 remaining applicants that are barely making ends meet, they are hoping that more can be done.    

“I have a hard time believing that they care, and it’s not just me… it’s a lot of people,” Buchanan said. 

Buchanan has also filed five governor’s complaints over the past few months and has not heard back. She’s hoping that something can be done soon to help her and her family.  

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