Archive for Thursday, March 6, 2003

Sebelius wants to end waiting period for jobless benefits

March 6, 2003


— Citing the recent high number of layoffs, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius today endorsed a proposal that would do away with the one-week wait before laid off Kansans could receive unemployment benefits.

"Eliminating the week waiting period is a positive step that keeps money in our economy and assists those in need of our support," Sebelius said at a news conferenc announcing the proposal.

If adopted by the Legislature, the measure could affect 50,000 Kansans, she said.

Sebelius, several lawmakers, labor and business officials have been working on ways to use $78 million in federal funds that Kansas received as part of a national economic stimulus package.

Under the proposal supported by Sebelius, $13.9 million would go toward eliminating for one year the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits and $1.9 million would be used to upgrade computer equipment at the Kansas Department of Human Resources.

Another $1.2 million would be used to pay for eliminating the current practice of deducting Social Security benefits from a jobless person's unemployment benefits.

The remainder of the $78 million will stay in the state's unemployment trust fund.

The fund is paid for by employers and is used to provide jobless benefits. By keeping the bulk of the federal funds in the trust fund, it has the effect of keeping down premiums that employers pay into the fund.

KDHR officials have said that the one-week waiting period was originally put in law to allow time to manually process the claim. With computers, that one-week wait is no longer necessary.

Eliminating the one-week wait will not affect the maximum duration of benefits, which is currently 26 weeks. But it will give jobless Kansans who are able to find jobs before using up their unemployment benefits, an extra week of benefits. The average duration of unemployment benefits is 16 weeks.

Disbursement of the federal Reed Act funds has been a political hot potato.

The monies were part of a federal economic stimulus package to states and were sent to Kansas in March 2002 where they became entangled in a struggle between lawmakers and former Gov. Bill Graves' administration.

The Graves' administration wanted to use about $4 million of the $78 million to upgrade computers at the KDHR. Several lawmakers opposed that expense.

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