Unemployed Kansans protest at KDOL as state’s unemployment rate rises, KDOL secretary addresses concerns


Kimber, organizer of the protest, holds sign in outside Kansas Department of Labor, after months without pay

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Unemployed Kansans protested at the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL) on Friday, after struggling to receive responses about their unpaid unemployment insurance claims. 

“We need some results, relief, and basically some hope,” said protest organizer Cortney Kimber. 
Kimber, her significant other, Sharon Polk, and another protester joined in chants, demanding that their claims be paid. 

While the protest was expected to have a higher turnout throughout the day, Kimber said she left early after noticing a police car arrive outside the building. She said she’s had no luck with the department moving forward on her claim, and has received mixed messages in the process.

“The breaking point for me was when I received a response from an agent, which told me my claim had no monetary issues found, but then they gave me a response that we have to send it over to a supervisor to give you a determination if you’re approved or not,” Kimber explained, after noting this was after months of waiting. “If we had answers, none of this would have had to happen, but without answers we have nothing.”

Kimber is one of thousands of applicants that have yet to receive payment from the department’s PUA program. She’s waited for about 8 months now, and said she’s suffered major losses in the process, including losing her car and being evicted from her house that she shares with her significant other. According to Kimber, right now, they’re both living with family, who are helping them get by. 

“I’ve lost basically everything,” Kimber said. “I have nothing of my own, just a few pieces of clothing.” 

According to KDOL Secretary, Ryan Wright, the delay may be caused by the influx of fraud claims the department is receiving. Wright said the department’s taken extra precautions to address the issue.

“We’ve already delayed all new applications to the PUA program are on a 72 hour wait, and that’s so our fraud teams can go in and do their due diligence,” Wright said. “It brings this entire thing to a screeching halt.”

This comes as the unemployment rate in the state is back on the rise. In KDOL’s November Labor Report, the unemployment rate is at 5.6%, which is an increase of .6% since last month. But, the department is optimistic that the increased rate will not impact their unemployment insurance programs.

In an email, a spokesperson for KDOL, addressed the increased unemployment rate, and said the following:

“In terms how our unemployment rate impacts insurance programs. The federal program this impacted, Extended Benefits, ended on 12/12. The other federal programs are not impacted by our unemployment rate.”

The state is awaiting a new stimulus package in hopes that it will stimulate the economy. Governor Laura Kelly addressed the need for a stimulus package during one of her weekly coronavirus updates, but said it may not help address all financial concerns in the state.

“We’d appreciate if they could pass it quickly, so that we could relieve a lot of people’s concerns,” Gov. Kelly said. “That won’t be enough to take care of all of the issues that not only state government has, local units of government has, but also our business community.”

The governor stressed that it will take a long time to recover from the financial impact the coronavirus pandemic has had. In the meantime, some Kansans that are struggling financially are finding support in each other. 

“We can’t do much, but spend time with each other… at least we have each other,” Kimber said. 

Some programs that have not been paid out are expected to end after Christmas if Congress doesn’t act on extending unemployment aid.

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