TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) – A senior Kansas Department of Labor official does not dispute a legislative audit finding that hiring hundreds of workers during the coronavirus pandemic did not appear to lead the agency to respond to more calls from unemployed people seeking benefits.
But Assistant Secretary of Labor Peter Brady said on Wednesday that appeals to the ministry were getting more complicated and taking longer as the federal government created six programs to help workers after COVID-19 restrictions on businesses in the spring 2020 caused an increase in unemployment.
Brady made his comments at a board meeting overseeing a modernization of the department’s unemployment computer system. He also said that some of the 500 workers hired by the department were sometimes diverted into resolving individual claims issues so people could get benefits.
Legislative auditors released their report last week, prompting criticism from Republican lawmakers against the administration of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.
Meanwhile, the state is still trying to determine the cost of fraudulent unemployment claims.
The legislative audit estimated that the state could have paid around $ 700 million in fraudulent claims in 2020 and the first two months of 2021. The Ministry of Labor estimates that the best estimate at this time is less than $ 400 million. of dollars.
“We’re not really working with precise numbering here,” said State Representative Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Democrat.
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