TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT)— State labor officials said they are planning to move quickly on implementing federal unemployment benefit programs extended in the upcoming stimulus package.
“We’re confident that we’re going to be able to implement these extensions relatively quickly,” said Peter Brady, Deputy Secretary for the Kansas Department of Labor. “Our underlying goal is to make sure that claimants have little to no lapse in benefits.”
Congress passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus deal on Wednesday, to help those facing financial hardship during the pandemic. This comes as the country and state face an unemployment crisis, with thousands of Kansans still in need of relief.
Brady told Kansas’ Capitol Bureau with the fast turnaround of the bill, the department is hoping to get payments out sooner.
The stimulus deal provides a $300 boost to weekly unemployment payments, as well as extending two key pandemic unemployment programs through Sept. 6.
Two programs that are being extended include Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which is a broad program that expands access to unemployment benefits for people who have been impacted by the pandemic. The other program is Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which is for people who have already exhausted state unemployment benefits.
Federal benefit programs from the last stimulus package are set to expire March 14. State labor officials said the tighter timeline on passing the bill may bring fewer lapses in payments, which unemployed Kansans experienced with the last stimulus package.
Brady said lack of action from Congress, and the agency’s ongoing struggles with an outdated computer system caused delays in payments. Now, he’s hoping that will change.
“The bill was passed very close to the expiration of the programs last time, and then it wasn’t signed until the programs expired,” Brady noted of the last stimulus deal signed by former President Donald Trump.
The department will need to wait on guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor before rolling out payments. Brady said the timeframe in which they receive guidance will also play a role in determining how soon they’ll be able to provide relief to those in need.