Kansas lawmakers push KDOL officials for timeline on needed I.T. modernization, thousands of claims still unanswered

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Kansas Department of Labor is struggling with outdated systems while unemployment claims keep pouring in. The department presented a study to address the need to modernize its unemployment system in a meeting with the state’s Joint Committee on Information Technology Thursday.  

They say that updates to their unemployment insurance system could solve problems the department is experiencing related to fraud and unemployment claims. However, some lawmakers fear updates to the ongoing modernization project have already taken too long.  

“How do we address the problem that’s going to keep hitting us over and over again in the next months?” Rep. Jeff Pittman, D-Leavenworth, said, calling for more immediate action to be taken. 

Pittman argued with deputy secretary for KDOL Brett Flaschbarth, who failed to provide a “yes or no” answer to whether modernization was needed to address the current unanswered fraud and unemployment claims. 

Flaschbarth said the state’s mainframe system, which provides a foundation for processing claims, is more than 40 years old with few progressive changes being made over the last decade. He noted the system has created an issue that states with modernized systems don’t have to deal with.  

“As they’ve done more [modernization] projects, they’ve done better over time.” 

Flaschbarth says the department is about 85% done with the feasibility study for their modernization project, and that it’s made substantial progress with addressing their backlog of unemployment claims. He said the outstanding filings had been slashed from 20,000 to 8,000, since last summer. 

But, with unemployment and fraud claims that are still going unanswered, committee executives say that there is more that needs to be done.   

“Hopefully they are making a lot of progress on the unemployment issues that we’re seeing,” said Rep. Kyle Hoffman, R-Coldwater, “I’m still getting calls from people that are saying that they’re having trouble with their unemployment.”  

Flaschbarth said similar modernization projects in the U.S. Take up to 5 years to complete. The department is looking into ways to finish the project sooner and say they’re still working on how they plan to address the high volume of unemployment and fraud claims.  

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