Change in Unemployment Qualifications Debated

Republican legislators are pushing a proposal to make it harder for unemployed Kansas workers to get extended benefits, arguing that thousands of jobs remain unfilled.

The proposal before the Legislature has sparked a backlash, and Democrats see it as hurting struggling workers at exactly the wrong time.

A 2013 state law ended a policy of providing up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits to jobless workers, and instead tied eligibility for more than 16 weeks of benefits to the unemployment rate.

Separate but identical bills now before the House and Senate commerce committees require a higher unemployment rate for the extended benefits to kick in.

The measure would also set up a council to oversee a modernization of the Department of Labor’s unemployment computer system, and require the upgrade to be finished by the end of 2022.

Meanwhile, some Democrats see the Kansas proposal as tone-deaf.