TOPEKA, Kan. — The state is pouring millions more into the Kansas Department of Labor. It comes as the agency struggles to help unemployed Kansans.
“A lot of our citizens are still trying to get help,” Representative Ron Ryckman said, R-Speaker of the House, and member of the State Finance Council. “The department is working through a lot of issues.”
The council approved $11 million on Thursday to assist in the Kansas Department of Labor’s efforts to improve its call center response times and address a high volume of calls.
The agency sent a statement to the Kansas Capitol Bureau, however, they did not comment on whether more staff will be hired.
“The agency is utilizing this funding to continue the current level of support in the call center so that KDOL can maintain and improve the current level of customer service through the end of the federal programs.”SPOKESPERSON, KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
The department plans to use the money up to the time that federal unemployment programs are expected to end. As of now, that time is set in September.
Hundreds of new contact center employees were onboarded this year to help field callers. While the department boasted improvements these past few months, some people have still had trouble getting through to the department.
“I think things are slowly getting better,” Representative Tom Sawyer said, D-House Minority Leader, who also sits on the State’s Finance Council. “But there are still people that are having issues getting their checks. Hopefully, this funding today will help speed that process up a little bit.”
When the pandemic hit, long call lines and payment delays became a burden for many unemployed Kansans already struggling financially. The department has blamed an outdated computer system for many of its setbacks with issuing pandemic-prompted federal unemployment programs this past year.
Lawmakers have been spending millions to bring in more workers to handle all the calls. The council also approved an extra $1 million to go toward an ongoing project to update its decades-old computer system.
Now more money is on the way to help the struggling department keep up. Speaker Ryckman said he expects more improvements to be made.
“Now it’s about helping the folks that truly need the benefits,” Ryckman said. “And having $11 million there should go a long way.”