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MISSION, Kan. — Kansas unemployment woes continue to be a frustration for those trying to contact the state’s Department of Labor.

One man is so fed up, he started an online group for people like him.

Ron Monson has lived in Mission for four years. He’s been was working and happily heading toward retirement. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he lost his job and was forced to sell off a lot of things to keep his life in tact.

“I filed for unemployment first thing,” Monson said about getting laidoff.

Monson got through 2020 thanks to unemployment and was looking forward to it continuing. At the end of December, then-President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Relief and Government Funding bill, which should have extended Monson’s unemployment — but he never got another check.

“From what I understand, the computer system dropped us off of the roll during that week, and the people in Kansas couldn’t figure out how to put us back in. Or at least that’s what they told me,” Monson said.

And that’s about all of the information he got. Making up to seven calls a day, Monson’s new full-time job has become trying to get in touch with someone at the Kansas Department of Labor.

“There’s no way to reach them,” he said. “They don’t have voicemail. If you try to call them, they don’t answer.”

As winter bloomed into spring, Monson had to sell his truck and cash in his Roth IRA to make ends meet, with no word about his unemployment.

“It makes me pretty frustrated,” Monson said. “It made me frustrated enough to where I created a group on the (Nextdoor) neighborhood app to try and get to see how widespread this issue was.”

He named it the Who “CARES” Group.

“Because of the CAREAS Act that I wasn’t being paid for,” Monson said. “I was taken by how much a response there was and how many people are being affected by this.”

Monson finally got in the queue for a call from the Kansas Department of Labor after contacting his local state representatives.

Almost three months after his journey began, his interview with us was interrupted by the long awaited call from KDOL. After filling out back paperwork and getting him back in the computer system, Monson should be getting his benefits.

As to whether he believes he’s all taken care of, Monson said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

The Who “CARES” Group can be found on the Nextdoor neighborhood app.

The Kansas Department of Labor sent a statement that reads in part:

“As we onboard and add more customer service agents, we have begun to see calls into the contact center dropping. From 02/09 – 02/15 the average total number of unique calls per day into our contact center was approximately 352,860. From 03/17 – 03/21 the average total number of unique calls per day into our contact center was approximately 136,530.

“This drop is two-fold, KDOL believes. First, to the point above, we are onboarding more staff to work with claimants. Second, we continue to pay out more claimants due to the deployment of the Continued Assistance Act requirements, therefore, less have a need to call in. From 02/13 – 03/13 paid out more than $100M in federal and state benefits. In our last reporting period, for the week ending 03/20, we paid out $15.8M in federal and state benefits.

“Once a caller enters an initial call queue, she/he is able to speak with an initial customer service representative within 15 minutes. Our busiest times for the Contact Centers are between the hours of 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. daily. If possible, claimants should avoid calling during these hours. If a caller gets into the queue, do not hang up. Our highest call volume day of the week is Monday. Our lowest call volume day is Friday.

“Many general questions from claimants can be answered by KDOL’s chatbot, Amelia, which can be accessed on our website and claimants can interact with us also at our unemployment insurance portal.”