NewsLocal News


We See You: Unemployed Kansans help each other through the holidays

Facebook group created to support Kansans
amelia's hand me downs.png
Posted at 10:41 PM, Dec 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-20 23:51:11-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A new Facebook group is making the holidays a little brighter for Kansans waiting to receive unemployment money.

Olathe resident Justin Kirby created the group, called Amelia's hand me downs, as a way for people to help each other out. The name Amelia comes from the virtual assistant the Kansas Department of Labor created this year to help claimants with questions about their claims.

"Amelia was the chat assistant who just kind of handed us down to the next person, put us on hold," Kirby said.

The group quickly grew to more than 200 members, according to Kirby.

"Some of it is just, 'Hey, I need some socks or toilet paper,' or on the not so fun of it, they're about to get disconnected, their utilities or they need rent paid," he said.

For Lana Garrett, members of the group took care of an overdue utility bill.

"It meant the world getting that help," Garrett said. "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 wanted to help others as well and stayed in the group as an admin. She said waiting on unemployment money to come through has made it a heartbreaking holiday season.

"I can't even afford all my bills right now, let alone put anything under the tree," she said.

The most recent data shows a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 5.6% in Kansas for November 2020, an increase from 5% in October.

During an interview with 41 Action News in mid-November, Acting Labor Secretary Ryan Wright said the department is doing everything in its power to issue payments to Kansans.

"The scale of this makes getting these resources out the door challenging," Wright said, "but we're going to keep at it and make sure that if anybody is owed a dollar from this agency that they get that money."

However, the stress of waiting is taking a toll.

"Anxiety is at an all-time high," Garrett said. "I've had to actually go in and talk to my doctor about that."

Garrett said she's grateful to have the Facebook group for support and people like Kirby to lean on.

"It's very heartwarming, and it makes me happy for sure to see somebody getting helped," Kirby said. "I've spent hours on the phone with some of these people, and I consider them my friends. There's nobody in the group that's taking too much or doing too little or asking for too much."

Kirby said anyone in need of support or who would like to help others can join the Facebook group.