TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Thousands of people are turning to the Kansas Department of Labor after losing their job due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The state saw 55,000 initial unemployment insurance claims last week. That’s in addition to 17,000 continuing claims already happening.
Because of this, the department of labor has seen more than 800,000 calls to their offices in one day. Many of those are going unanswered.
“I was dialing non-stop like I was trying to call a radio station to win tickets or something,” said Diane Edney, who has closed her antique store in Manhattan, Curious Chameleon, because of the virus. “This morning I started trying again, and there were quite a few times that I got through and it would ring once or twice, and then hang up, which was really frustrating.”
Edney wanted to find out if she, and other self-employed people, were eligible to get payments. She was primarily interested in knowing if the $600 a week the federal government passed for people collecting unemployment insurance could go to her.
Edney said the department eventually called her back and told her to file a claim, but that states do not yet know what the federal payments will look like yet.
Many others have been reaching out to the department.
Dionna Lankard is an unemployed mother also in Manhattan. She has been on unemployment for two months.
“Mine’s came in, mine’s been regular. I haven’t had any problems until this happened,” she said.
She said she has had a tough time reaching the department.
“Mine’s a busy signal, and then some calls, it just says this is temporarily unavailable. Some calls says this number is busy, some calls says please try again later. I haven’t got an actual ring or a prompt at all,” Lankard said.
Lankard is looking to fix a problem with her claim. She said when the department made changes to its website due to the coronavirus crisis, she mistakenly filled the form out wrong, and now she’s unable to fix it. That means right now she’s stuck without a check this week.
“Unless somebody contacts me and I can explain, all I need to tell them is I answered a question wrong,” Lankard said.
She hopes to have the department back-pay her if it is not settled this week.
The department is recommending that people go online to getkansasbenefits.gov to file a claim, instead of calling.
Officials provide updates and answer some questions each weekday on the Kansas Department of Labor’s Facebook page.