State assigns 35 more employees to answer unemployment calls

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Larresa Kelpin, a Topeka resident, lost her job on March 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It took her a week and a half following this to be able to access the Kansas Department of Labor’s unemployment website without it crashing. Now, she knows she was accepted for unemployment, but has not yet received any payments.

“I’m thankful I was able to get rent paid already,” Kelpin said. “But I have a car payment coming up, I have insurance. I know utilities are saying ‘oh, we won’t shut you off,’ but those are going to be due sometime.”

Kelpin said her main concern is for her toddler son.

She’s concerned that without the money for unemployment, she will be unable to take him to daycare. This would result in her being unable to do job interviews, or work the 4 to 6 hours a week she does for her part-time job.

“It’s a scary thing to be going through as a parent because it’s my job to provide for him and it’s my job to protect him,” Kelpin said. “I feel like I’m helpless, like I can’t do anything.”

The Kansas Department of Labor has pulled employees from their own department, as well as the Kansas Department of Commerce and the Kansas Department of Agriculture, to answer phone calls regarding unemployment, said Labor Secretary Delía García.

Currently, the state receives an average of 520,000 attempted calls a day, García said.

“We are just as frustrated that we wish we could move faster, but we will work with you, we will deliver on this, and you will get your paid money,” García said. “We’re just trying to work out some of the kinks in our system.”

This adds 35 people to the 40 answering phones, coming to a total of 70 people working the 200 phone lines, García said.

She added that the employees are training and will be ready to work by the end of this week.

The employees are spread out among government buildings and some are working from home, García said. The only concern is providing laptops to all the employees who are at home.

García recommended people use the website as much as possible, as the phone line is supposed to be reserved for people without internet access, in the military, non-English speakers or people who have moved to Kansas in the last 30 months.

She also recommends people visit their Frequently Asked Questions page, daily Facebook lives, and virtual town halls on Wednesdays at 3 p.m.

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