KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Busy signals, websites that won’t let you log in and mounting frustration.
That’s the experience for many of the tens of thousands of people suddenly trying to file for unemployment in Kansas and Missouri.
“I’ve probably tried at least five times a day for the past five days,” said Brittany Connor who was laid off last week from her job at an entertainment venue in Overland Park.
Connor said the first thing she did was log online to www.getkansasbenefits.gov to apply for unemployment.
Instead of helping her apply, an error message popped up on the website.
“The website told you to call and the message on the phone told you ‘We’re not available,'” Connor said. “So where do you turn to next?”
The Kansas unemployment office phone lines were so overwhelmed that on Wednesday people were reporting that they couldn’t get through.
Kansas Labor Secretary Delia Garcia said she understood Connor’s frustration and is working hard to resolve issues that the unemployed are facing.
She has doubled her staff and wooed people out of retirement. She said the (now former) retirees can hit the ground running since they are already familiar with the software.
Plus on Monday glitches were fixed in the Kansas unemployment website that were preventing people from accessing it if they couldn’t remember their password or log-on.
“This is not an April Fools joke,” Garcia said. “This is great news.”
Garcia is also providing daily updates on the Kansas Labor Department’s Facebook page, and every Wednesday at 3 p.m. she holds a live chat where she answers questions.
FOX4 shared the problems Connor was having applying for unemployment with Garcia. Fifteen minutes later, Connor got a call from a woman at the Kansas Unemployment office offering her help
“She actually did my first week’s claim over the phone, so I didn’t have to do it online,” Connor said.
“The next step for me is to set up my direct deposit, and then I will log in every Sunday for the weeks I need employment assistance.”
Unfortunately FOX4 had less luck in Missouri. It’s been difficult for us to even get hold of someone at the Labor Department, and an email sent out Wednesday has yet to be answered.
In addition, the unemployed in Missouri must still wait a week after filing before collecting a check. That requirement was waived in Kansas.
The Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Department has a Facebook page where people can post questions.
But the most common answer to peoples’ complaints about filing was “please be patient.”
Kansas has applied for federal stimulus money that should increase unemployment checks by $600 a week. However, the money has not arrived yet nor have the federal regulations stipulating its disbursement. It’s unclear where Missouri is in the application process.