Petition calls out Kansas Dept. of Labor as thousands wait for benefits

Published: Nov. 23, 2020 at 11:31 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - With thousands of Kansans still in need of financial help during the COVID-19 pandemic, a petition is circulating on social media, fighting to hold the Kansas Department of Labor accountable for the backlog of unemployed Kansans waiting to receive payments, some of which have waited for several months and haven’t seen a dime from the state.

Currently, there are 13,000 people waiting for benefits from the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL). Some are coming together to petition the department of labor and are threatening to file a class-action lawsuit.

“I would like to get this in front of (Kansas) Secretary of Labor Ryan Wright, the director of unemployment insurance, and ultimately, Governor Kelly,” said petition creator Sumer Cole. “Whether that’s coordinating a march to the front steps of Topeka or a class action lawsuit, something needs to be done.”

After months of waiting for a single payment from the Kansas Department of Labor, Cole started the petition, not just to hold the department accountable, but also to demand a solution. As thousands wait for payment, some fear even more evictions will happen over the holiday season.

“December 31 is (when) the eviction ban ends in Kansas, and so at the rate things are going, there’s going to be thousands of Kansans homeless on January 1 and that doesn’t sit right with me,” Cole said.

As of late Monday night, about 300 people had signed the petition, hoping it will put some pressure on lawmakers and the State of Kansas to find a solution to the backlog of unemployment payments.

“The first week, I was just making adjustments. Now it’s to the point where I can’t pick up my prescriptions,” said Jesse James, an unemployed Kansan who signed the petition. “Luckily, I was able to do my laundry today, but it comes down to really basic things we take for granted. The next step is to start selling my items. I don’t know what to do after that.”

A spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Labor said the agency is working through a backlog of 13,000 people right now and hopes the department will have the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) backlog cleared by the end of the year. The petition also said there are claims in the petition that are not true. The petition claims a reason for holding onto payments is to build interest. The department of labor said this is inaccurate. The petition also claims KDOL used the interest to recover from paying out fraudulent claims. Again, the department said this is inaccurate.

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