Debate continues in Kansas over federal unemployment benefit

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A recent Wall Street Journal investigation says states that drop the federal unemployment bonus benefits of up to $300 a week may make it tougher to find employees.

Another investigation from the New York Times shows there is not a significant change in those states dropping federal enhanced benefits.

As the debate continues, some in Kansas continue to push to potentially drop the federal benefit on tap to stay until this fall in the Sunflower State.

The Kansas Chamber has been asking Gov. Laura Kelly if it is time to drop the benefit.

“And a lot of our members expressed that concern about government benefits making it more difficult, making it be a part of the problem of having folks return to work,” said Alan Cobb, CEO of the Kansas Chamber.

Cobb says unemployment benefits have done a lot for people, especially during COVID. But he is continuing to ask what comes next.

Several of the state’s GOP congressional leaders urged Gov. Kelly to end the program in the past few months. However, some Democrats found the move to introduce a resolution needless, given the current efforts to open a discussion.

Some Wichita businesses say it’s hard to find workers right now, so they wonder if raising pay will help.

“It’s ridiculous, yeah, it’s hard to find people,” said Blake Baysinger, owner of Wichita Collision & Dent Center. “I mean, we have no problem paying higher wages to attract a better worker.”

Baysinger says he has enough work to easily double his workforce.

“Twice as many as I have now, easily. Easily,” he said.

Cobb says the enhanced benefits have been a lifeline to many Kansans. He also says he has seen many Chamber members ask if the governor will consider cutting back or withdrawing from the federal program.

Gov. Kelly met with Kansas Chamber leaders to talk about the benefit in May.

“We had a good discussion with her,” said Cobb.

At the time, Gov. Kelly said she was considering her options and had not made a decision.

KSN reached out to the governor’s office to see if a decision will be made or if the benefits will stay in Kansas until the fall of 2021.

Meanwhile, Cobb says the Kansas Chamber is working to push state lawmakers to find ways to improve education while the discussion over federal benefits continues.

“Finding a skilled workforce is always a challenge,” said Cobb. “There’s certainly, the extra benefits are part of it, and they need to make sure there is proper training. That the training is with educational institutions whether it’s K-12, higher education or workforce certificate type of education.”

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