Kansas unemployment leaders offer tips for self-employed workers, new guidance on when to access state’s website

photo by: Screenshot/Kansas Department of Labor

From left, Delía García, secretary of the Kansas Department of Labor, and Shawn Yancy, deputy director for the state’s unemployment program, speak during a webcast Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

More advice — and more pleas for patience — are flowing from the state officials responsible for getting Kansans signed up for unemployment benefits.

“Thank you for your patience with us,” Delía García, secretary of the Kansas Department of Labor, said in a webcast Tuesday. “We know we have a lot of things to go through and fix to make sure we are serving you.”

The department has been dealing with historically high call levels to its helpline and huge numbers of people using the getkansasbenefits.gov website, which is the portal for signing up for unemployment benefits.

Users had been advised to avoid accessing the website during peak daytime hours. That’s still true, but García clarified on Tuesday that the website is undergoing nightly maintenance from 10:15 pm. to 6 a.m. During those times, the site might not be able to accept unemployment claims, she said.

For people calling the helpline, García said wait times will be less if people call before 8:30 a.m. or after 4:30 p.m. However, the department is still experiencing some problems with people being put on hold, waiting a long time, and then being cut off just as an operator has picked up the call. García said operators are not hanging up individuals, but rather the phone system is experiencing a technical difficulty.

“No, we are not hanging up because we don’t like you,” García said. “We love you and want to support you. … I want to apologize for that and we are working on a remedy for that now.”

More unemployment coverage

April 6 — Kansas unemployment officials say they are now starting to process extra $600 payments called for in federal bill

April 3 — Latest data shows manufacturing — not restaurants — producing biggest job losses in Kansas

March 29 — What you need to know about getting unemployment payments from the state of Kansas

March 27 — Kansas unemployment hotline had more than 200K calls in one day; state leaders urging online use

In the webcast, department leaders offered several other tips for people filing an unemployment claim:

• People who are self-employed — everybody from small business owners to freelancers to Uber drivers — should start filing for unemployment benefits now, if they have lost their business or work. However, the standard unemployment form can be confusing for self-employed individuals because traditionally self-employed workers aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits.

Shawn Yancy, deputy director for the state’s unemployment program, said when the state form asks for employer information, a self-employed person simply should list their name in the spot reserved for the business’ name. In the spot reserved for a business’ address, self employed people should simply list their personal address. Filling the form out in that manner will alert the state that the flier is a self-employed individual.

“That will allow you to process that claim,” Yancy said.

However, it is likely that claim is going to be denied. But Yancy said it is important for self-employed people to still go through the process. That is because the new federal provisions that will allow self-employed people to get unemployment benefits requires self-employed workers to prove they are ineligible for traditional unemployment programs. Going through the process now and getting the denial letter will serve as proof that you are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits. That should speed up the approval time for the federal program.

Yancy, however, said the state still cannot estimate when it will have the new federal program operating for self-employed workers. He said the state is still going through the recently released federal guidelines, and it still must create the necessary systems within the labor department to implement the program.

• State officials also don’t have a date for when people should expect to receive the extra $600 per week unemployment payment that was approved by Congress as part of the CARES Act. But labor department leaders did stress Tuesday that the state will make back payments on that program to ensure all people on unemployment ultimately receive their full amount of assistance.

For example, people who are on unemployment for the week of April 5 likely will not get the $600 as part of their next payment from the state. However, if the state does start making the $600 payments for the week of April 12, people who were on unemployment for the week of April 5 will get a $600 payment to compensate them for the week of April 5.

“You will be paid for eligible weeks that you didn’t get paid for,” Yancy said. “You will get paid back weeks on that $600 once it is up and running.”

• People who are struggling to file their weekly unemployment claims — a step that is required in order to get paid by the program — are encouraged to file those claims on Monday instead of Sunday. García said people who file their claims on Monday will get paid at the same time as people who file on Sunday. A rush of users on Sunday is causing problems for the website.

People also can file their claims Tuesday through Saturday, Garcia said. Filing on one of those days will result in only a day delay in people getting paid by the state.

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