Kansas labor department’s ‘clawback’ causing issues for this metro man, many others

Mornings

After major struggles getting Kansas unemployment benefits during the pandemic, Kansas’ secretary of labor has suddenly resigned

But what ultimately led to Delia Garcia’s exit was another issue altogether. 

The Department of Labor mistakenly deposited duplicate payments to thousands of Kansans — and then took one back, causing overdraft issues for some. 

One metro man experienced the problem, known as clawbacking, firsthand and is now left in a tight spot. 

Timothy Martin is a beekeeper. It’s his hobby and retirement plan that he’s now trying to turn into a business after being laid off during the pandemic. What’s keeping him afloat is unemployment.

But recently the Kansas Department of Labor took two payments out of his account instead of making deposits. 

“As far as I am concerned, this is theft,” he said. 

On June 10, the department said it made around $7 million in duplicate payments to more than 4,500 people. 

On June 18, the agency took the money back — without telling anyone, including Gov. Laura Kelly. 

“Now all those bills you paid are late, and checks start bouncing,” Martin said. “They’re not going to fix your credit report and they’re not going to pay you for your bounce check fees.”

Martin, who has a pre-existing medical condition, is most concerned about one bill in particular. 

“I’m on COBRA, all right? If I miss one COBRA payment, I lose my health care. There’s no getting it back,” he said. 

This is just Martin’s latest frustration. He had such a difficult time signing up for unemployment that, by the time he got approved, Martin said the state owed him more than $14,000. 

Martin contacted every politician he could. It was a representative from Kelly’s office who finally got him in touch with someone at the labor department. 

“He made one phone call to the Department of Labor’s Office, and he sent me an email: ‘If they don’t get back to you by the end of the day, let me know.’ Forty-five minutes later they called me,” Martin said. 

Martin said the person he’s working with the labor department has been helpful but his problems haven’t been solved. 

“And this poor girl’s problem is she talks to all these people above her in different departments, and no one seems to know what they’re doing,” he said. 

“It’s clear whoever is in charge over there doesn’t know what’s going on,” Martin added. “They should resign.”

The governor said the state will make the clawbacking problem right. 

A phone number and email will be set up specifically for the people who had money taken out of their accounts. Kelly said they will be reimbursed.

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