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Kansans owed unemployment protest KDOL at statehouse

Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 6:18 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansans marched on the statehouse steps Friday to show disapproval of the state’s handling of unemployment claims.

Cassandra Dickerson, of Olathe, organized the event on Facebook.

“To me, there needed to be a direct action taken to address this and to get Governor Kelly’s attention,” she said.

Guy Martin joined. He drove from Branson Missouri after being displaced from Topeka because he was not receiving money to pay rent. Yesterday he received a partial payment for the first time in five and a half months.

Amanda Trentham is a Leavenworth resident. She said her husband, who works in construction, cannot find work right now. She said they normally file for unemployment every year with his profession but this year has been much different – saying he got one payment in December and hasn’t seen anything since.

Dickerson said she was going on seven weeks herself.

Trentham had to pick up another job to stay afloat and help her family.

“So here I am taking care of two children, a household, getting ready to lose my house if I don’t get a mortgage payment in,” she said.

We reported this week -- around 50% of Kansans that tried to authenticate their identities on the KDOL unemployment site were approved on the new system. Leaving 49.7% unable to get into it. Susan Thompson lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and used to work in Kansas.

Thompson made the long drive to peacefully protest Friday morning and plans to come back at future marches.

“When they did an update to the system, it changed everything. Now I can’t get logged in, I haven’t been able to file a weekly claim, haven’t gotten any help since December 29th was the last week,” said Thompson. “I’ve had to borrow money, I had to get assistance to help to try and pay my rent, cancelling my doctor’s appointments and we’re not getting any answers.”

Martin shared his disapproval of the system and said whether fraud was involved or not, the legitimate claimants should not be on the back burner from the state leaders.

“You just don’t do that,” he said. “You just don’t do that because it really is affecting people’s lives to the point that, you know, it’s just not right and I think the governor should probably have addressed this a long time ago before it got too large.”

Dickerson, Thompson and Martin said they’ve attempted to call KDOL but have heard no response to their inquiries. Dickerson said she’s called 600 times in one day.

“I was literally calling from the way from Olathe to here today just back-to-back-to-back and could not get through,” she said.

“It’s disheartening to call and get the same message time after time. The whole queue is full, no one’s available,” Thompson added.

They stood in the cold and some brought signs to get their message out.

Thompson said, “I don’t care about the politics on either side. Who it started it. But you’re in charge now so, if you’re not the one to fix it then find somebody to fix it who knows what they’re doing.”

Dickerson wants a third party to investigate KDOL and have state leaders be held accountable. Other supporters agreed – Trentham said she has the cell phone number of a KDOL representative and they said they don’t know why nothing has gone through.

“Somebody somewhere is lying. There’s no transparency when I have a KDOL representative texting me saying I don’t know,” she said. “Obviously somebody is not telling the truth.”

They are asking for daily briefings from Governor Laura Kelly on unemployment claims to update the public.

“Governor Kelly needs to get out here do a daily briefing of what’s going on, get some help there, hold somebody accountable,” said Trentham.

“There needs to be daily press briefings about this as there are COVID, that’s how big this problem is in Kansas,” said Dickerson.

Two more marches are planned -- one next week and one the following Friday. Dickerson is hoping more Kansans come out and said they will bring their bills and disconnect notices, as well as highlight the mental health of Kansans. She and Martin mentioned multiple instances of suicide and suicide attempts on several Facebook pages -- one woman committing suicide just in the past few days.

“That’s what our plan is for the next one and then hopefully for the third one, Governor Kelly will meet us out here and she will talk with us,” said Dickerson. “I don’t want to make it seem like my story is direr than somebody else’s because there are stories that really are worse than mine, but it’s just unacceptable.”

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