States loosen unemployment requirements to help those impacted by COVID-19 pandemic

Kansas Department of Labor seeing record number of calls to unemployment office

PITTSBURG, Kan. – Crossfit 620 owner Luke Robinson, like many business owners, has had to make some tough decisions.

“We know it’s a tough time for everybody. For us in the gym industry specifically, most of us are shut down,” says Robinson.

He decided to close his gym in Pittsburg earlier this month — before the Crawford County commission put new business restrictions in place that closes gyms like his.

While his physical location is closed, he’s still trying to help his members by putting workouts online, and he’s still paying his employees even without regular work being done.

“You know, it’s not their fault, so we’re just gonna try and keep that going for them,” says Robinson.

But not all business owners can do that — so many people are having to turn to unemployment.

The Kansas Department of Labor has made a lot of changes for unemployment so people impacted by the pandemic can receive benefits.

“The Kansas Department of Labor is here for you and we know this is tough times,” says Kansas Secretary of Labor Delia Garcia.

The biggest changes include making it so people don’t have to look for work while drawing unemployment, making it so anyone that has to be quarantined because they have the virus can draw benefits, removing the one week waiting period before filing an application, and making it so that people that chose to self-quarantine are eligible.

“Right now, we are being very flexible during this time, especially due to the influx, but also the guidance at the federal level,” says Garcia.

The department is also asking people to file applications online and be patient because they have staffing for low unemployment rates at a time when they’re getting a record number of applications.

“118-thousand phone calls in four hours, from eight in the morning, to twelve noon just today alone. So we want to again make sure that we’re reserving the phones for those people that don’t have internet,” says Garcia. “The infrastructure that we have in place is working, it’s just the amount is overwhelming. So again, we’re gonna get through this together. It’s just gonna be a team effort with the public and my amazing staff.”

Robinson is going to keep doing what he can, but doesn’t know what the long term may bring.

“I don’t think anyone ever thought to plan for something like this and so we’re just kind of making it up as we go and taking it one day at a time,” says Robinson.

The Kansas Department of Labor has a list of frequently asked questions, which can be found below (story continues after graphics).

Ks Dept Of Labor 1 Ks Dept Of Labor 2

The Missouri Department of Labor has also made changes — including making it so those who are self-quarantining may be eligible for unemployment, depending on their individual circumstances.

You can read more about that at the link below:

https://labor.mo.gov/coronavirus

And in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission has made some changes, including waiving the work search requirement.

More information can be found below:

https://www.ok.gov/oesc/Claimants/Claimant_Unemployment_Insurance_FAQs_on_COVID-19.html

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