TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Kansas Department of Labor announced changes Friday morning to how it will report the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claimant backlog. Thousands of Kansas are still waiting to get unemployment payments.
PUA is a temporary program that expands unemployment insurance eligibility to self-employed workers, freelancers, independent contractors, and part-time workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The department said because of Congress’ lack of an action at the end of 2020, a gap period was created. In a news release, the department said that period created some confusion for claimants who had used up regular state unemployment benefits and the extension of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program benefits.
“Without the extension at the federal level, claimants were instructed to file for PUA, which is intended to be the benefit of last resort for unemployment benefits. When the Continued Assistance Act was signed Dec. 27, 2020, those claimants became eligible for further PEUC benefits, but development and deployment took time in KDOL’s archaic, legacy IT system,” said the Kansas Department of Labor.
KDOL said they began paying out Continued Assistance Act extension benefits in February. At that time, the agency said they reviewed the outstanding PUA filings and determined that many claimants were eligible for one of the other unemployment programs, such as PEUC or regular unemployment insurance, and in many cases were paid benefits for the weeks in which they had filed PUA claims. The department said that the originally reported PUA backlog, 66%, or 10,100 claimants, fell in this category. An additional 25%, or 3,770 claimant applications, were deemed to be likely fraudulent. Those claims are now being further reviewed.
Right now, the department is working to modernize the unemployment system.
As of May 12, 2021, KDOL said there are approximately 15,300 total PUA claimants:
- There are approximately 1,500 PUA claimants with PUA issues that need to be adjudicated. This is the backlog of individuals awaiting PUA adjudication and our team is working to reduce this number.
- There are approximately 10,100 claimants who have been moved from PUA to another unemployment program where they are able to receive benefits
- There are approximately 3,770 claims that are likely to be fraudulent
The Kansas Department of Labor said they have paid out over 4.3 million weekly claims totaling $2.9 billion since March 15, 2020.