Kansas politicians arguing over KDOL system woes before and during pandemic

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 9:42 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas politicians and their parties are speaking out for the handling of the state’s Department of Labor unemployment systems.

Representative Jason Probst pulled data from the labor department over the past 12 years and saw a decline in their funding year to year.

He said, “Some of us whose been watching this issue and been involved in some of the discussions about modernization knew that this is what exactly happened and I’d pulled documentation from 2011, whenever Karin Brownlee went to talk about modernization, and said ‘We’re going to pull the plug on it.’”

He argues Gov. Laura Kelly was working on changes to the systems being in office -- then the pandemic hit.

With the pandemic, everyone working inside the statehouse went back and forth about what to do with the system. In April, KDOL issued its request for a proposal for modernizing the four-decade-old computer system.

A state audit showed outdated computers for why Kansas may have paid $700 million in fraudulent unemployment claims since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 15, 2020, KDOL said it has paid out over 4.9 million weekly claims that totaled over $3.2 billion between regular unemployment and the federal pandemic programs. KDOL said on Sept. 16, that date would be its last unemployment claim update.

The Kansas Republican Party wrote in a statement to 13 News: “It’s no surprise Governor Kelly and Kansas Democrats are trying to pass the blame for their failure at the Department of Labor. Governor Kelly was in office for almost two years before the pandemic and the state still lost $700 million to fraudulent claims.”

Probst said the event of a financial crisis happens overnight but the failure is a result of years of decisions that were made by people to not invest money where it needed to be invested.

The Kansas Republican Party’s statement went onto say, “Governor Kelly led a Department of Labor that lost millions, ignored unemployed Kansans needing assistance, and was ranked 50th in the nation for unemployment recovery. There is one person to blame here and that is Laura Kelly.”

Probst said it was strained in 2003, 2008 and 2020 through financial crisis, which is a part of the economy, and that they happen somewhat regularly. So, despite the systems most recent upgrade, there’s always a need to keep up-to-date with the latest technology.

“In the long run, consistent investment in technology upgrades particularly on massive systems that are connected to federal systems make sure you don’t end up in space where you have to make a big investment and completely overhaul a system.”

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