Gov. Kelly announces new Acting Secretary of Labor

Kansas Department of Labor
Kansas Department of Labor(WIBW)
Published: Dec. 22, 2020 at 4:37 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Governor Laura Kelly has appointed a new Acting Secretary of Labor for the state.

Governor Laura Kelly says on Tuesday she appointed Deputy Secretary of the Kansas Department of Labor, Brett Flachsbarth, as the Acting Secretary of Labor. She said Flachsbarth will serve until he announces the permanent Secretary.

“Brett is a Department of Labor veteran, and he knows the ins-and-outs of the issues KDOL faces,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “I’m confident he will be able to continue the progress made and ensure Kansas families receive the relief they need.”

According to Gov. Kelly, Flachsbarth joined KDOL in 2005 as a member of its legal team. She said he was appointed as Deputy Secretary of Labor in 2019 and as worked in a variety of roles, including Director of Unemployment insurance, Chief of Appeals, Counsel to the Employment Security Board of Review and Counsel to the Public Employee Relations Board.

Gov. Kelly said Flachsbarth is a current member and former Chair of the Steering Committee for the Information and Technology Support Center, which is a national collaboration between state agencies and the U.S. Department of Labor to better and more effectively use technology within the unemployment insurance system. She said he is a graduate of the University of Kansas and Washburn School of Law.

“I want to thank Ryan Wright for his service as Acting Secretary,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “Taking over this department was no easy task. There is still a lot of work to be done -- but under his leadership, KDOL has made immense progress and has largely been stabilized.”

According to Gov. Kelly, KDOL has made significant improvements within the past six months, including the following:

  • Returning the agency to normal operations in all program areas, including workers compensation and industrial safety and health.
  • Instituted a fraud program that has stopped over 200,000 fraudulent claims:
  • Brought on Accenture, a firm that helped address critical unemployment program backlogs, stabilized legacy IT systems and increased temporary staffing to address the historic increase in demand for unemployment compensation.
  • Since March 15, paying out more than $3.4 million weekly claims totaling over $2.4 billion in unemployment. Previously, it took 8 years to reach $2 billion in unemployment payments.
  • Made significant progress on the backlog of claims. In June, the regular unemployment backlog was around 25,000. Today, KDOL has a backlog of around 1,800 claims and is on target to eliminate this backlog around the first of the year.
  • Made significant progress on the buildout of the PUA Unemployment System, including a critical component that allows the agency to address the PUA backlog. Since it was completed at the end of November, over 11,000 Kansans have begun providing the necessary documentation to have their PUA claims adjudicated. As claimants provide their documentation, KDOL staff is able to make a determination on their claims in a timely manner.
  • Improved call center customer service, added hundreds of new operators and streamlined operations. Now, once a caller enters an initial call queue they can speak to a customer service representative within 15 minutes. If the call queues are full they are not able to connect to the system, which prevents callers from remaining on hold for hours.

Ryan White previously served as the acting secretary.

At her Tuesday news conference, Kelly said state statutes only permits someone acting in a position to be in place for six months.

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