Lawmakers discuss long-term fix for labor department

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Unemployed Kansans are running into problems at the state’s department of labor, and have been for months.

Lawmakers said that only a completely revamped system could be able to correct the problems the department of labor is seeing. The large level of unemployment claims has shown the state’s unemployment system, that runs on a more than 40-year-old mainframe, can’t keep up.

There are reports of payments being delayed, it being hard to get assistance to apply and fraud has been large problem.

Phillip Hayes is the vice president at the Arnold Group, a human resource company. He also has served as the director of Kansas State Council of the Society for Human Resource Management.

Industry experts like Hayes said the old system is making the problems worse because new technology can’t be used to improve the issues.

“With the technology that’s available today in the marketplace, we are light years behind where a lot of our neighbors are,” Hayes said.

He said to find a good solution lawmakers will need to get input from businesses and people that have struggled to get benefits. Hayes said they need to start addressing the issues right away because implementation will take years.

“Once we climb out of this pandemic and this recessionary period, we’re going to have another recession, and typically those are on average seven to nine years, so that’s our window of opportunity to get this right,” Hayes said. “Make those improvements and then don’t take our eye off the ball. Once we feel like we’ve got it up and running, we have to continually maintain this and not be in a position that we’re working with a system that is four decades old.”

Hayes presented recommendations to lawmakers in the special committee on economic recovery.

Lawmakers said efforts to improve the system have stalled in the past because the legislature and previous administrations weren’t on the same page. They’re hopeful this crisis can bring people together to fix the system.

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