Kansas lawmakers vote to extend unemployment benefits while coronavirus spreads

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – House members unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that extends the amount of time Kansans can be on unemployment.

The bill would increase the length of time you can collect unemployment insurance from the current 16 weeks to 26 weeks.

“It’s more imperative now that we do this, that we provide certainty to the families of Kansas,” sponsor of the bill, Wichita Representative Nick Hoheisel, said.

The idea was originally proposed earlier this session to deal with aviation layoffs in Wichita. Now lawmakers are saying it can apply to everyone.

“Now it’s statewide, it’s broadened out in response to the coronavirus,” Hoheisel said.

The state is beginning to see restaurants, gyms and stores close their doors, meaning workers are being forced to go home.

“There is a ripple effect here, if you have one industry closing, other industries are closing as well,” Wichita Representative KC Ohaebosim said.

In Kansas, the average weekly benefit of unemployment insurance is $398, but that can vary from person to person.

Supporters said the bill is an important safety net if the crisis lasts for a long time.

“This is a time that all of us have to rally together and support one another,” Ohaebosim said. “We’re going to get through this, we’ll wait for next season, we’ll hit the reset button, and we’ll be alright.”

The Senate voted to approve the bill later in the day, 29 to 4.

If the bill becomes law, the extension will last until April of next year.

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