Kansas woman plans series of unemployment protests at state capitol

Unemployment Situation

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Frustrations continue to rise among some unemployed Kansans, who have gone months without receiving federal unemployment benefits.

Now, an Olathe woman has planned a series of protests, called “Kansans March,” to vent her concerns with the state’s labor department, KDOL.

“Our pleas have been ignored by KDOL officials and the Governor’s office for months,” Cassandra Dickerson, the organizer for the protest, said in a press release Tuesday. “This crisis is a state disaster within a pandemic disaster for Kansans. We deserve full transparency and facts by the Governor.”

The first march is planned to take place at the Kansas State Capitol on Friday.

Dickerson, a mother of three, has struggled to pay bills after going nearly two months without pay.

After hearing from other unemployed Kansans, struggling to make ends meet, she decided to take action.

“Who’s responsible for this? Why does the state of Kansas just get to do this to us, and there’s no discipline? There’s nothing,”​ Dickerson told Kansas’ Capitol Bureau.

While the state’s labor department has said that payments are going out every day, Dickerson said she’s seen more people in her circle that are still waiting for money.

The state’s unemployment office has been juggling a high volume of fraud and an outdated computer system while paying out claims. Recently, the department’s implemented a new security system to combat fraudulent login attempts.

A spokesperson for the state’s unemployment office, Jerry Grasso, said in an email Tuesday that the department has been transparent about the delay in payments, releasing an FAQ on federal benefits in the Continued Assistance Act on Monday.

“With our antiquated technology, we have been transparent that we would not be able to pay the new PEUC and PUA programs until quite possibly the end of February, and in fact, we will begin to pay PEUC out at the end of this week. We’ve put out press releases, updated Facebook, and done many interviews on the programs, the timelines, and the contact center.”

Kansas Department of Labor

Grasso points to a delay by Congress and former President Donald Trump in why many payments couldn’t go out faster, providing the following timeline:

  • 8/7/20 – State leaders said “Congress needed to come together and act and pass legislation to extend benefits for those in need.”
  • 12/9/20 – State said “CARES Act was ending on 12/26/20, calling US Congress – who had not acted up to that point on passing more legislation – to act soon and pass an extention.
  • 12/27/20 – President signed federal legislation after CARES Act expired.
  • Mid January 2021 – State “did not receive guidance from U.S. Department of Labor on guidance on implementing the Continued Assistance Act extensions”
Dickerson’s flyer for her planned series of unemployment protests set to take place at the Kansas State Capitol

However, Dickerson said lack of transparency is one of the driving forces behind the protest, along with thousands of Kansans not knowing when they’ll receive their next payment.

“We want to be told the truth but, more importantly, we need our UI payments issued so that we can pay rent and utilities, put food for our table, and meet the basic needs of our families,” she said.

In addition to the protests planned for Friday, February 19, two more are also expected to take place at 10 a.m., at the Kansas State Capitol on February 26 and March 5.

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