Missouri, Kansas labor departments respond to Trump's unemployment memorandum

Donald Trump
Posted at 6:13 PM, Aug 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-10 19:19:45-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One of President Trump's executive orders Saturday signals an intent to continue a $400 weekly enhanced unemployment benefit in addition to state unemployment insurance compensation.

This would replace the $600 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit, which went into effect in late March and expired at the end of July.

States would be required to cover 25% of the new proposed payment using coronavirus relief money received from the federal government, but it may be a challenge to get a new system up and running for Missouri and Kansas labor departments, which are awaiting details of the proposal yet to come from the White House.

“Missouri is assessing the President’s August 8, 2020, Executive Order regarding additional unemployment benefits," the Missouri Department of Labor said in a statement to 41 Action News. "At this time, we are awaiting detailed guidance from the US Department of Labor. Once Missouri receives those details, we will work as expeditiously as possible to determine what actions are the most beneficial for all Missourians. We will share that information publicly once it is available.”

Kansas is in the same boat, but most agree that something needs to be done to help workers who have been laid off for as many as six months. But uncertainty lingers in the absence of federal guidance.

"Our team is looking into what this means for Kansans," Kansas Department of Labor Acting Secretary Ryan Wright said in a statement to 41 Action News. "What we do know is that Kansas families are hurting and need as much certainty right now as possible. The Administration issued a broad memo — not a plan, and there is still a lot to learn about the specifics. As we evaluate this memo, we must also take into account that we are dealing with legacy IT systems and limited resources. If we divert those resources to try and implement a plan that may not be permanent and may not even be legal, it could ultimately prevent Kansans receiving those benefits in a timely manner when a more permanent solution is just around the corner if Congress acts. We need Congress to work together and come up with a more permanent bipartisan solution that works for all families and businesses."

The President's order also leaves unemployed Kansans, like Emily Grasser, with questions.

"When's it going to come in? We don't know," Grasser said.

Grasser is preparing to home school her kids and said the extra support from the government is needed.

"I know personally it will help," she said. "I'm having to buy two laptops to keep my kids at home for school."

She's not alone in hoping a solution comes soon, but there's room for doubt given how Kansas has struggled to manage the unemployment crisis since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

"It'll take months for them to get it right," Tawnya Foutch said. "There's people still waiting now."

Still, Foutch hopes lawmakers come to an agreement soon.

"They just need to do it to help the American people, because there's going to be a lot of homeless, hungry people," she said.