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$1.77 billion paid out to unemployed Kansans by state, federal government since mid-March

Coronavirus in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Some people could soon hit their limit of state unemployment benefits.

In Kansas, you can only receive benefits from the state’s regular unemployment insurance for up to 26 weeks. That was extended from 16 weeks earlier this year by the legislature.

It’s been 22 weeks since the middle of March when the state of emergency began for the coronavirus outbreak. When state benefits run out for people, federal programs begin providing additional relief to the Kansas system to pay to those out of work.

“That transfers that burden of payment over to the federal funds, and so at that point, once they’ve exhausted regular unemployment, all of the rest of the funds come out of those federal funds,” said Acting Secretary of Labor Ryan Wright to members of the SPARK Taskforce on Wednesday.

The SPARK Taskforce is the state’s coronavirus recovery committee in charge of providing recommendations to the State Finance Council on how to spend federal CARES Act funding.

The federal extensions like the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PUEC) and Extended Benefits (EB) programs can add an additional 33 weeks of payments to Kansans.

So far, the federal government and the state have already provided $1.77 billion to unemployed Kansans since March 15. That includes Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payments of $600 a week to Kansans. That program has since run out.

Wright said the department has not decided whether to implement President Trump’s recent executive order that would grant $300 a week to unemployed Kansans because there would be significant challenges to get that system up and running.

Kansas started off with around $1 billion in its state unemployment trust fund this year. The state has made a point to grow the amount of money in it since the recession more than a decade ago.

“It was intentionally healthy because we thought there would be a recession coming,” Wright said.

That now sits at $663 million. Depending on how much unemployment insurance is claimed in the near future, that money could run out by next July or as early as January. But the federal government would step in to make sure Kansans are getting help.

“If the state’s trust fund starts to run low, we can also call on the feds to help bolster that with some interest-free loans, so the feds are going to play a big part in unemployment in Kansas in the coming months,” said Chuck Magerl, who is part of the SPARK Taskforce’s steering committee. “Knowing that we’ve got some backup coming from the feds, I think everybody should have a little bit of breathing room associated with that, it’s really important for business, it’s important for workers.”

You can watch the entire SPARK Taskforce meeting here.

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