Governor doubles unemployment benefits as claims soar

Photo: Governor Laura Kelly announces record unemployment claims and issues an executive order to expand benefits.


By Aaron Strain / Web Master

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced Tuesday that the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL) received 55,000 new unemployment claims last week, doubling the previous week’s record of 24,000 claims. The agency takes in 1,800 claims during a normal week.

In response, Kelly issued an executive order which doubled the unemployment benefit amount and removed barriers from claimants receiving them. An additional $600 in weekly benefits will be funded by the recently-signed federal stimulus bill.

KDOL fielded a daily average of 230,000 phone calls last week, and over 877,000 just this Monday.

Employees from other state agencies were redirected to assist KDOL with its call backlog. Kelly said this “all-hands-on-deck approach” will continue indefinitely and that no conversations have been held regarding state employee furloughs.

Those seeking Unemployment Insurance Benefits from KDOL are encouraged to do so online at getkansasbenefits.gov.

Through the same week, Kelly signed executive orders limiting gatherings to less than 10 people, prohibiting certain foreclosures and evictions, extending deadlines for tax filing and license renewals, and outlining local response protocols.

On March 28, Kelly issued a state-wide stay-at-home order.

“Now more than ever, we must be kind, we must support one another,” Kelly said. “Together, we must get through this.”

Across the state

The KDHE reported 482 positive cases and 10 deaths as of Wednesday. Two-thirds of the cases are in Johnson, Sedgwick and Wyandotte Counties.

KDHE Secretary Lee Norman said the agency predicted the state’s peak of infection to be April 24.

However, “In many regards, it is a little bit like the weather,” Norman said. “Predicting tomorrow’s weather, we’re going to be pretty good at it. If we’re predicting three or four weeks or months out, it’s not ever as easy.”

Reno County reported 9 positive cases as of Tuesday afternoon. The latest information can be found by following the Reno County Emergency Management Facebook page.

Johnson County recorded its third death Tuesday, bringing its case total to 143.

Sedgwick County reported 64 cases Wednesday, including the first at McConnell Air Force Base. Monday, a man in his 50s became the first COVID-19 death in the county.

Eighteen people associated with a nursing home in Burlington have tested positive.

Further information

Questions about the coronavirus, including symptoms and how to proceed if you are feeling ill, can be answered on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment website at kdheks.gov/coronavirus. The website and public releases are updated daily by 5 p.m. 

Alternatively, email COVID-19@ks.gov or call the KDHE phone bank during regular business hours at 1-866-534-3463 (1-866-KDHEINF).

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