Imagine you’re responsible for producing widgets for a manufacturing company where product demand has been stable for several years and that demand suddenly doubles. Now substitute a first time claim for unemployment in place of the fictitious widget, and you can begin to appreciate the challenges the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL) is facing since a significant upturn in layoffs has hit Kansas workers. The agency received 37,482 first time claims for unemployment this past December, a 133% increase over the 16,071 first time claims for unemployment received in the previous month and an approximately 105% increase over the 18,212 first time claims received a year ago (in December 2007).

Not surprisingly, the agency initially struggled in processing the deluge. But KDOL has subsequently implemented a number of changes in its efforts to be more responsive
to Kansans filing unemployment claims. This has included the hiring of 30 additional Customer Service Representatives as well as extending hours of operation. Starting
Monday, February 9, the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Contact Center is now operating from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
on Saturdays. Claimants can also file their initial and weekly claims online at http://www.uibenefits.dol.ks.gov, Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. This is a
temporary change in hours to deal with the current influx of claims. Since implementing these changes, the UI Contact Center has doubled the number of calls it can handle in a day and average wait times have been cut in half.

KDOL has also undertaken significant changes for handling extended benefits by establishing a separate Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) Processing
Center to process all applications for extended benefits. In staffing the new center, the agency pulled employees throughout the agency who had past UI experience and
trained them to handle extended benefit applications. In the past 3 weeks, the KDOL has eliminated the backlog of EUC08 applications and is now processing applications
for extended benefits as they come in.

Even after adding staff and extending hours the telephone wait times can still be long. The agency recommends that first time claims be filed on-line. Once the initial claim is filed, then continuing weekly claims can be filed through a dedicated automated telephone system which is easier to use than the main Contact Center call line. It
is available Sunday – Midnight to 6 a.m. and Noon to Midnight; Monday – Anytime; Tuesday through Friday: 7 a.m. to Midnight; and Saturday – 9 a.m. to Midnight. You can reach the automated continuing weekly claim telephone system at one of the following phone numbers: Kansas City Weekly Claims Line – (913) 287-6913; Topeka Weekly Claims Line – (785) 296-4337; Wichita Weekly Claims Line – (316) 269-0633.

Paid for by Tom Holland for Kansas Senate
Kris Marsh, Treasurer