Kansas begins processing retroactive $600 unemployment payments; state receives early childhood education grant

photo by: Screenshot/Kansas Governor's Office

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, front, speaks during a press briefing as Kansas Department of Health and Environment Lee Norman, back, watches Friday, May 8, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka.

Story updated at 3:55 p.m. Friday

The state of Kansas has started processing retroactive claims for an additional $600 in weekly unemployment insurance, Gov. Laura Kelly said Friday as the national unemployment rate surged to a level not seen since the Great Depression.

Processing for those claims began Wednesday, Kelly said during a regularly scheduled COVID-19 press briefing. As the Journal-World previously reported, an error in the Kansas Department of Labor’s processing system resulted in several weeks where extra benefits claims were not being processed, until that problem was fixed in late April. Kelly said the department has already processed over 200,000 claims — or $120 million — for the extra insurance, which came about as part of a $2.2 trillion federal stimulus package passed in March.

National job numbers released Friday showed the economy losing more than 20.5 million jobs in April, sending the unemployment rate to a whopping 14.7%.

Kelly said she sympathized with all those affected by unemployment and bemoaned the fact that the pandemic in one month wiped out an entire decade’s worth of job growth.

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Also on Friday, Kelly announced that Kansas had received a federal grant worth $8.9 million to continue improving the state’s early childhood education system.

The grant, allocated by the Administration for Children and Families, will be used to support “infrastructure and innovation” at the local and state level and bolster the systems in place for the state’s youngest residents.

“This grant is particularly welcomed now as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an additional level of stress for our young children and their families,” Kelly said. “Kansans can expect to see investments in activities that build a sustainable infrastructure for our early childhood system. Together, we’ll march forward with this and not allow this unprecedented crisis to derail critical initiatives such as early childhood education.”

As of Friday, the state had counted 6,501 cumulative confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19. The state defines a probable case in two ways: a person with presumptive lab evidence who either has COVID-19 symptoms or has been linked to a confirmed case, or a person without lab testing who has COVID-19 symptoms and also has been linked to a confirmed case.

Five additional deaths were confirmed in the state Friday, bringing the statewide death toll from the respiratory virus to 152.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Lee Norman said Friday that going forward, the department will release new COVID-19 statistics only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — days when Kelly has scheduled press briefings — in order to free up staffers to help track the virus’ spread.

Norman said Kansas is currently monitoring 76 outbreaks of the virus, which have resulted in 2,861 cases and 101 deaths.

Those outbreaks can be traced to the following locations:

• 31 from private gatherings, resulting in 378 cases and four deaths

• 22 from long-term care facilities, resulting in 540 cases and 85 deaths

• eight from religious activities, resulting in 111 cases and eight deaths

• six from meat packing plants, resulting in 1,082 cases and two deaths

• three from group living facilities, resulting in 41 cases and zero deaths

• three from correctional facilities, resulting in 687 cases and two deaths

• three from health care facilities, resulting in 22 cases and zero deaths

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