Kansas businesses warn legislators discussed COVID-19 mandate bills could backfire

FILE - Employees at a federal prison hit the picket lines, Monday, over vaccine mandates and...
FILE - Employees at a federal prison hit the picket lines, Monday, over vaccine mandates and staffing troubles.(25 News/Heart of Illinois ABC)
Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 6:12 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas businesses say new COVID-19 legislation meant to protect Kansas workers from being fired for not getting vaccinated for religious or medical reasons could potentially backfire.

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce says the business community has expressed concerns about legislation introduced on Tuesday, Nov. 9, by the Special Committee on Government Overreach and the Impact of COVID-19 Mandates.

As seen on 13 NEWS at 10 p.m., Nov. 9, 2021

The Chamber said the committee will host an informational hearing on Friday, Nov. 12, regarding the legislation to require Kansas businesses to exempt workers from mandates if the employee has medical advice to not be vaccinated or has “sincerely held” religious beliefs that oppose vaccination.

According to the Chamber, the second proposed bill would allow employees who lose their jobs due to refusal to get vaccinated or to wear a face mask to receive unemployment benefits.

Kansas Chamber President and CEO Alan Cobb said the community would welcome the opportunity to work with state lawmakers to fight the federal vaccination mandates, but warned of unintended consequences of the potential legislation the committee is set to consider.

“Kansas businesses, by and large, do not want to mandate the COVID-19 vaccination because they know it will negatively impact their workforce and compound the lack of available workers even more,” said Cobb. “Kansas businesses from the beginning of the pandemic have led the way on determining how to keep their facilities and operations safe. They continue to be the best ones to decide whether a vaccine mandate or wearing face masks are the correct approaches for their companies.”

Cobb said also concerning is the potential impact the legislation would have on Kansas’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. Based on current vaccination rates in Kansas, he said the state could expect to pay out $606 million to $5.6 billion in unemployment benefits to those who lose their jobs due to refusal to follow a federal government mandate or an employer’s human resources policy.

“Allowing unemployment benefits as the proposed legislation recommends could cause significant financial harm to the state’s UI trust fund, negatively impact its solvency, and lead to increased taxes on the Kansas businesses who are struggling to recover from the pandemic,” said Cobb.

Cobb said the Kansas Chamber will provide testimony to the special committee at its informational hearing on Friday.

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