Governor and Wichita Chamber official weigh in on extended unemployment benefits

Local

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Some business owners say the reason Kansans are not returning to work is that they are receiving an extra $300 per week in federal unemployment benefits. Many are now pleading with the governor to end the program.

The Wichita Chamber of Commerce and local business owners sat down with Gov. Laura Kelly Tuesday to find a solution. The chamber believes the best idea is to remove the extended unemployment benefits. They feel the extra $300 a week is tempting some to stay home.

“They’re facing a, you know, decision on the balance sheet, and if they can make more money by receiving unemployment, some of them will choose to do so,” said Andrew Wien, Wichita Chamber Vice President of Government Relations. “We do think that that’s a policy lever we can pull to say, hey, there’s great jobs open in Wichita, some of them starting salaries are great, you know with benefits, and they’re still struggling to find folks for those.”

Gov. Kelly said it’s something she is looking into.

“I’m dealing with that issue the same way I’ve dealt with every other issue related to COVID — bring stakeholders together, gathering the information and the data, and then making a decision.”

Noting that the unemployment funds are just one factor contributing to the labor shortage.

“Access to quality childcare is a huge problem, transportation is a huge problem, housing is a huge problem,” Gov. Kelly said.

The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce believes the extra $300 a week if ended, could be redirected elsewhere.

“A back-to-work bonus to encourage folks, hey if you’re on the job for, you know, a month, you get a check of $1,000 or whatever the number may be, and if you’re on the job for additional two months after that you have, you know, another $1,000 coming or whatever it may be,” Wien said. “So there are definitely options to do other things with that money.”

Gov. Kelly said she is working quickly to make a decision on the extension of the unemployment benefits.

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