Kansas lawmakers 'turning up the heat' on Department of Labor

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Posted at 4:36 PM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 18:17:17-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas lawmakers are putting pressure on the Kansas Department of Labor to get answers about the many issues claimants continue to face.

Rep. Sean Tarwater, (R) District 27 and Chair of the House Commerce Committee, said lawmakers are frustrated with the department's lack of transparency.

"We are trying to get the answers, we have turned to a group of professional HR people who have spent hundreds of hours with us trying to figure out the issues and we're making progress with the private sector and we're just making assumptions now of what's wrong," Tarwater said.

This comes after the department recently took its system offline for four days to implement a new program to prevent fraudulent claims.

The department, along with other states, has been plagued by fraudsters filing claims during the course of the pandemic.

Since the new, two-factor authentication system went live earlier this week, a spokesperson for the department said it has stopped more than 744,000 fraudulent claims as of 3:45 p.m. Thursday.

Tarwater said he and other lawmakers are glad the department took a big step to stop the fraudulent claims. However, he claims Kansas is the last state to do so and said lawmakers asked for such an update many months ago.

"That's concerning on how many people were actually getting through and how many hundreds of millions of dollars were just wasted," Tarwater said.

Tarwater said his committee heard from employers around the state Wednesday who are overwhelmed handling claims from the department.

"We've had employers that have business all over the nation and one of them has ten percent of its business in Kansas, but 97 percent of its fraudulent claims are coming from Kansas and that's an issue," Tarwater said.

Tarwater said one of the employers lawmakers heard from Wednesday said they were spending 80 hours a week handling claims, many of them fraudulent, when they would normally spend 15 hours a week doing so.

He continues to hear anger and frustration from Kansans waiting on payments.

"We're all frustrated as well, we have 165 representatives and senators here that are trying to work with the Department of Labor and find solutions, but we just can't do it unless they are going to be a little more transparent in what the issues are," Tarwater said.

Olathe resident Jennifer Lawrence said she successfully logged in to the new system earlier this week, but she can't file her claim. She's currently waiting on six or seven weeks of payments.

"You know it's just weeks and weeks and weeks of frustration because you're not getting any answers, you're not getting any support from them, you know what do you do," Lawrence said.

The Department of Labor is currently not doing on-camera interviews due to threats of violence against department leaders and staff.

A spokesperson sent 41 Action News its latest numbers of claimants attempting to register for the new system. As of 3:45 p.m. Thursday:

  • Total claimants attempting authentication: 71,457
  • Those claimants who were proofed/approved: 39,981
  • Those who have failed their ID proofing and would need to do it again/get help: 10,307
  • Those who experienced an error of some sort: 801
  • In terms of BOTS and fraudulent login attempts KDOL stopped: more than 744,000