Kansas kicks 7K off unemployment benefits for failing to meet new work search requirement

Unemployment modernization council prepares for interim report

By: - July 22, 2021 6:17 pm

Mike Beene, director of workforce development at the Department of Commerce, appears Thursday before the Kansas Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council. (Screen capture from YouTube video)

TOPEKA — About 7,000 Kansans lost unemployment benefits this week because they did not meet a deadline to sign up for a new state program designed to help people find a job.

Legislators inserted the work search requirement into House Bill 2196 earlier this year. Mike Beene, director of workforce development at the Department of Commerce, told legislators Thursday many people who receive unemployment benefits were still adjusting to the policy.

The Kansas Department of Labor issued referrals to the online My Reemployment Plan program for weeks in advance of the deadline.

“The activity of a work search requirement is almost a cultural shift for people right now because they have gone so long during the pandemic without that requirement,” Beene told the Kansas Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council.

The council met in anticipation of a preliminary report to the Legislative Coordinating Council updating leading lawmakers on progress made modernizing the state’s 40-year-old unemployment system. Updates on why some claims were being denied and modernization vendor search were provided, in addition to a look at My Reemployment. 

Gov. Laura Kelly expressed concern with the requirements keeping so many from receiving their benefits.

“We tried as much as we could to get information out to people, and we’ll continue to work with those 7,000 people to rectify their situation so that they can continue receiving the benefits,” Kelly said.

Using the week of July 10 as a baseline, KDOL deputy secretary Peter Brady said 87.7% of all pandemic unemployment program claims were paid. The remaining 12.3% either encountered a mainframe error, an eligibility issue with their claim, a requirement of additional information, or most prominently, triggered a fraud flag.

Brady was hopeful this snapshot would help the council better understand how claims were being processed in Kansas and how the system modernization project could improve these numbers for the upcoming council report.

“Different presenters we’ve had before this council have all made a lot of similar points of what the core requirements and functions of a modern UI system are. This is what it needs to do,” Brady said, urging the council to consider these presentations in the report when choosing a vendor for the modernization project. “These are all the criteria that will need to be looked at for a modernized system vendor.”

HB2196, which took effect May 13, created the council, initiated the needed modernization effort, and required a report recommending a vendor to be issued within 60 days.

With vendor selection taking longer than initially anticipated, Brady and others urged a more forward-looking report when the council takes that up on Friday. Rep. Kyle Hoffman, R-Coldwater, said while the initial 60-day window appeared ample enough time, once in the process he saw that wasn’t as feasible as previously thought.

“We don’t want to hold it up, but we also don’t want to rush it just for a report,” Hoffman said. “If the LCC understands that this report is preliminary I think that covers the statutory requirement of sending a report.”

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Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.

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