CARES Act: What Kansas residents need to know about unemployment insurance, other benefits

Unemployment claims for the year up seven thousand percent in Kansas

KANSAS – The Kansas Department of Labor discusses several new programs to help unemployed residents. Under the CARES Act of 2020, one program will provide an additional $600 to eligible recipients of unemployment insurance – and a benefit to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment insurance such as self-employed workers, independent contractors, etc.

The state’s Department of Labor says it has started the process of planning to implement the programs. The programs are not yet ready, but the agency will release details once they are ready to implement.

Today, Wednesday, April 8, Secretary Delía García and Unemployment Insurance Deputy Director/Chief of Appeals Shawn Yancy hosted a virtual town hall on Facebook Live.

The purpose of the event is to educate the public and provide a broad, high-level overview of the CARES Act, which includes Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) programs.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes unemployment programs that expand benefits beyond what residents would normally receive from the state — three of which the Kansas Department of Labor touched on during the town hall.

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program includes a $600 supplemental payment for everyone who is eligible for unemployment benefits under any state program. This includes the shared work program.

The extra $600 payments will be backdated to March 29th, and will be paid out every week through July 25th.

Residents do not need to do anything to receive the payments.

“If everything is going to be working properly, we expect within a week or two IT will be able to have that programmed and you will start seeing those payments,” says Kansas Unemployment Insurance Deputy Director Shawn Yancy. “We know we’ve had some IT problems lately, and so that could take a little bit longer. But, once we get it up and running, you will get it, and get it for all eligible weeks that you have filed claims.”

Kansas also previously extended unemployment benefits from 16 to 26 weeks.

Now, under the Federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program, that has been extended for another 13 weeks after those normal benefits end.

According to the Kansas Department of Labor, residents won’t have to apply separately for the extension, but they will have to continue to file their weekly claims. But, the state has not received guidance on this particular program from the US Department of Labor.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA), is a completely new program that works a lot like Disaster Unemployment Assitance in Kansas.

PUA provides benefits to residents that have exhausted all of their regular unemployment benefits and provides benefits to residents who are self-employed and independent contractors.

The state will look at residents’ earnings and entitle them a claim based on those past earnings.

The amounts residents could receive under PUA are the same as what they would receive under state unemployment and will be based on the last tax year.

The $600 payment under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program would also be given to residents who are eligible for PUA.

It is only available for residents who have been directly impacted by COVID-19.

“So whether they are diagnosed personally with COVID-19, whether they’re caring for a loved one, maybe their job closed so they’re not able to work, or there’s just no work available,” says Yancy. “There are some exemptions from this. If you are able to work remotely and work your normal work schedule, PUA is not available for you. Additionally, if you’re receiving any form of paid leave, PUA is also not available. Unless what you receive is less than your regular income.”

The PUA program is not implemented yet, but the Kansas Department of Labor recommends residents start filing regular unemployment claims, so they can have proof of un-eligibility for regular state unemployment. After that, residents should continue to file weekly claims so that once the program does start, payments for those weeks can be sent to them automatically.

And when they file a claim, if they are self-employed, they need to use their own information for the employer information on unemployment forms.

“We’re working on this program, but it’s gonna take a little bit of time. And we will be announcing the implementation of this when it’s available,” says Yancy. “We have, as the secretary had mentioned, kind of an outdated system. It’s an old mainframe system. It’s not web-based, it’s not easy to code necessarily, and so that just takes time to implement. As any law does. We’re only 12 days out from it, we’re moving certainly as fast as we can, and we’re gonna continue to move that way.”

The Kansas Department of Labor has seen a seven-thousand percent increase in initial claims so far for the year.

Last week alone the department received more than 130-thousand initial claims.

The department recommends filing online if you can, and recommends filing before 8:30 AM, and after 4:30 PM.

The Kansas Department of Labor also touched on what employees are eligible for if they have been asked to return to work, but can’t because they are considered high risk. You can find that in the virtual town hall linked at the top of this article.

Missouri is also working to implement unemployment compensation programs. You can learn more about their efforts below.

Missouri works to implement unemployment compensation programs