Holidays challenging for Kansans waiting on unemployment

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Posted at 6:10 PM, Dec 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-22 19:25:28-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Kansans waiting on unemployment payments told 41 Action News it's a difficult holiday season.

During an interview with former Kansas Department of Labor Acting Secretary Ryan Wright several weeks ago, Wright said his goal was to get caught up on the backlog of claims by the end of the year.

Since March, the department has been working with an outdated computer system Wright said was never built for the influx of unemployment claims that came due to the pandemic.

Overland Park resident Kayvon Seaman said she hasn't received any payments since August and her bills are piling up.

"I wasn't able to provide for Thanksgiving, I had to go out and get donations for Thanksgiving, and now it's Christmas and nothing," Seaman said.

Seaman said the stress of waiting on payments is taking a toll.

"The anxiety is too much to even begin to explain, it's just like having this weight on your chest and it's constant," Seaman said.

Seaman said she is trying to figure out a way to explain to her son why there won't be many presents under the tree this year.

"He's only 5 years old, he's not going to understand, he's just going to be like, 'Well Santa's not going to come. What if I've been bad?'" Seaman said.

Wichita resident Lana Garrett said it's a heartbreaking holiday season for her as well. Garrett said she's currently waiting on backpay and can't afford to pay all of her bills and also buy Christmas gifts for her kids.

"She wants to know why mommy hasn't put any presents under the tree and it breaks my heart because it's just not there. I can't," Garrett said.

Garrett said she's grateful for a Facebook group called "Amelia's hand me downs," which Olathe resident Justin Kirby created as a way for Kansans to help each other through the holidays.

The group helped take care of an overdue utility bill for Garrett.

"It meant the world, getting that help. That just meant that that money I was saving up at that time, I could either put toward another bill that I'm behind on or groceries," Garrett said.

A spokesperson for the department sent 41 Action News the following statement in regards to the recent stimulus bill:

"KDOL is encouraged by the passage of the COVID relief legislation which will continue support for Kansans who have been impacted by the pandemic. Federal guidelines must be established by the USDOL before KDOL can deliver these critical resources to Kansans."

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly named a new acting labor secretary Tuesday. Brett Flachsbarth will serve in the role until a permanent replacement for former secretary Delia Garcia can be found.

Garcia resigned in June.