TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican legislators and a powerful business group are pushing a proposal to make it harder for unemployed Kansas workers to get extended benefits, arguing that extra weeks of aid are available even when thousands of jobs remain unfilled.
But the proposal before the GOP-controlled Legislature has sparked a backlash amid the economic uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, and Democrats see it as hurting struggling workers at exactly the wrong time. A key Republican lawmaker conceded Friday that it will be difficult to include the measure in broader legislation designed to overhaul the state’s troubled unemployment system.
A 2013 state law, enacted under then-Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, 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 before the House and Senate commerce committees require a higher unemployment rate for the extended benefits to kick in.