Can your office please provide as assessment of how things are going at the KDOL and what is next to fix the technological problems?
- We continue to make progress. However, we are working with, and attempting to improve, technology from the 1970s.
- This administration was the first, after 40 years, to begin the modernization process for replacing our mainframe computer system that was implemented in the 70’s.
- But as the process was happening, COVID hit, and we had to shift our focus towards the biggest spike in unemployment since the Great Depression.
- We have hired over two hundred temporary employees and contractors to help stabilize our IT systems and provide additional support from answering the phones to adjudicating the backlog of claims.
- We have also doubled the size of our fraud department to meet the growing threat from identity theft.
- These are examples of how we have expanded our capabilities to serve Kansans better.
- We are putting a plan together for the next legislative session. We have been told that the cost to modernize our legacy systems could range from $30-50 million.
- However, that is why it is important that we finish the modernization evaluation. It will tell us the best path forward and how this can be done in phases, not all at one time.
- It will also allow us to get a more accurate cost for the process.
- We are also hopeful that in the next federal stimulus bill we’ll see some dollars allocated to helping modernize our legacy systems. While Kansas has one of the oldest systems, almost every state still needs to modernize their unemployment systems.
To the best of your knowledge, how many people are missing payments in part or in whole?
- At this time, we have brought the number of people waiting for UI adjudications from over 25,000 in August to about 14,000. We continue making progress as we work to eliminate this backlog.
What is the timeline for getting those people the benefit?
- As soon as we possibly can as we work through the backlog. See the above answers to how we are attacking the problem and our progress goals.
- The Acting Secretary consistently makes this statement. “KDOL’s wants to be a part of the solution, not the problem. If a Kansan is owed $1.00 in unemployment benefits, and their claim is valid we promise we will get the person that dollar.”
- Separately, we would like to intro legislation, just as we did this year, to remove the 5-year ban
- Since March 15, 2020, we have paid a total of 2.8 million weekly claims totaling $2.1 billion. To put that in perspective, you have to add up the last eight years in claim payments to total $2 billion
Will people missing federal benefits ever see those benefits or has the money run out?
- Yes. All of the federal programs will continue to pay out, if a claim is found to be valid and occurred within the eligible time-period, even if the program has ended.
- The only current exception to this is the Lost Wage Assistance Program. LWAP was administered by FEMA and was only active for six weeks. Around 110,000 Kansans qualified for that program and we are set to make the final payments next week.