More unemployment call center employees & IT system updates coming, governor and labor secretary say

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – More unemployment call center employees and updates to the labor department’s computer systems are coming, according to Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and Department of Labor Secretary Amber Shultz Monday afternoon.

The announcements came during a 4 p.m. press conference at the Kansas Statehouse. The briefing was the first public speaking appearance Shultz made since being appointed to labor secretary.

Kelly started the conference by stating the department’s staffing was at an all-time low, alongside unemployment numbers in Kansas when the pandemic began. She called the agency’s current computer system “Stone Age,” but said KDOL has ramped up the speed they’ve been able to process unemployment claims despite this.

The unemployment call center started at 20 employees, then more than 450 during the pandemic. The governor added that another 100 temporary hires are coming.

KDOL’s new unemployment website and cybersecurity system have halted 5 million bot hacking attacks or fraudulent attempts to log in, according to the governor. It also stopped half a million fraudulent claims that could have cost the state $22 billion.

Still, Kelly has called on legislators to appropriate funds for the KDOL IT systems’ multi-year modernization.

Shultz then took the podium to give an update on KDOL’s work to update its IT system. The primary system for unemployment insurance was built in the 1970s, and several key components were updated in the years past. However, the Brownback administration ended those update projects, according to Shultz. She said her agency is working to complete a feasibility study and make functionality requirements for additional modernization efforts.

The timeline for this typically takes three to five years, but KDOL is trying to reduce that length estimate as much as possible.

Shultz said there is no backlog of claims in the regular unemployment system, but a backlog for some 12,000 Kansans exists in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for gig workers.

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