Archive for Monday, December 19, 2011

Appeals backlog leave Kansas unemployed waiting

December 19, 2011


— The number of Kansans waiting to see if they qualify for unemployment benefits is up considerably from last year, according to a report from the Legislative Research Department.

More than 6,500 Kansans have been waiting to see if they qualify for unemployment benefits, which is more than twice the number of people who were waiting three months ago and four times the level in 2010, The Wichita Eagle reported.

Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, requested the report on the backlog and said the problem is that the state Labor Department laid off too many judges who heard appeals.

"Why do we have 5,000 more cases (on the backlog) than we did a year ago? Because they laid off the people who were making the decisions," Ward said. "The question is, 'Why?' They basically don't have an answer for that."

State Labor Department officials said changes instituted since Gov. Sam Brownback took office will create a more efficient system, and that they're re-staffing the appeals department to nearly pre-layoff levels.

"We're doing everything we can to cut that time down, but yeah, it's too long . There isn't a person here who doesn't think that's too long," said Kathie Sparks, deputy secretary of labor.

Brownback also said he's not satisfied with the waits for appeals and blamed the problem on his predecessors.

"Unfortunately, the prior administration had spent most of the federal money that runs the Department of Labor — most of it is a federally funded agency," he said. "It's very little state funding. We had a big reduction in workforce because we had no money — the federal funds to fund it. So then you have these sort of things that start up."

The Department of Labor started the year with at least 16 appeals judges, stationed around the state. But layoffs in June and subsequent retirements brought the number down to six. The layoffs were part of a reorganization of the department to concentrate its appeals staff in Topeka.

Although the people hearing appeals had had the working title of judge, state law calls for referees, and the job title was changed to reflect that, said Brett Flachsbarth, the chief of the appeals division. But the job qualifications also changed. Unlike the former appeals judges, the referees are not required to be attorneys.

The department is filling the positions by promoting lower-level, non-attorney employees whose job is to make the initial determination whether a worker is eligible for benefits.

Sparks said the department has 11 judges, or referees, and is hiring three more. When the new referees take office in January, the department will be only two positions short of where it was at the beginning of the year. The department is rolling out a new computerized system and made significant upgrades last week, she said.


Jan Rolls 6 years, 2 months ago

They would have you believe the appeals process is the problem. Brownlee cut a lot of positions in her effort to priviatize the positions and that is still her objective. Now she and dummy sam the sham can say this doesn't work so we have to hire an outside firm. After she cut the workers most of the experienced supervisors retired. By the way guess what party most of the judges she got rid of belonged to. If you believe its the appeal process try calling to file an initial claim for U.I. If they get back with you within a week you are lucky. I have heard of spin but this is just straight hog wash.

fatheadff 6 years, 2 months ago

Help me out here. Didn't you just print an article of how unemployment was down yesterday and they were going to cut the emergency portion.

overthemoon 6 years, 2 months ago

I was thinking the same thing. But that was yesterday.

Mel Wedermyer 6 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, it's low because they deny most and then they have to wait on an appeal. Great strategy for helping the people who need it.

JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 2 months ago

The great leap backward continues. Leona Helmsly would be proud of screwing these "little people". Remember, 1) people receiving federal unemployment benefits must be actively looking for work, 2) unemployment benefits are not enough to live on, 3) the super wealthy created this recession through their casino style investments in bubble economies, and 4) the Brownback administrations top goal for state government is to shrink the number of state jobs because they dont consider those real jobs.

Sunny Parker 6 years, 2 months ago

But Obamy said there are more jobs to be had! lol

buffalo63 6 years, 2 months ago

"What these people need to do is take a shower and go get a job". Newt Gingrich

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