In his State of the State speech last month, Governor Brownback said that one of his administration’s top priorities is to protect Kansas families. “Kansans are can-do people. We take care of each other, even when circumstances are difficult, as they surely are now. We help those in need,” he remarked.
Unfortunately, a bill approved by the Senate last week directly contradicts that message. Senate Bill 77, which was introduced on behalf of Brownback’s newly-appointed Labor Secretary, raises unemployment taxes on Kansas employers, reinstates the waiting week and eliminates trailing spouse benefits for non-military families.
All totaled, SB77 eliminates more than $13 million in annual unemployment compensation. And while it begins to replenish our UI Trust Fund, it does nothing to address those Kansas employers who have paid out nearly seven times more in unemployment benefits than they have contributed.
Because claims were initially processed manually, a “waiting week” was necessary at one time. But there is no logical reason to have a delay in benefits in today’s computer age – which is exactly why the Legislature eliminated it in 2007. Reinstating the waiting week only serves to keep needed benefits out of the hands of out-of-work Kansans and prevents those who are out of work less than 26 weeks from receiving benefits they’re rightfully due.
Eliminating “trailing spouse” benefits will make it more difficult for families to stay together when one spouse has been transferred out of the region. It sends a terrible message to Kansans about the value we place on family and marriage; and it is a step backward for thousands of Kansans trying to balance the needs of work and family.
Kansas’ home mortgage foreclosure rate is at a sobering 7 percent, while our unemployment rate is at 6.8 percent. Kansas families are in need right now!
Now is not the time to eliminate benefits that unemployed workers rely on to survive. Now is not the time to turn our backs on the promises we made to the people of Kansas.