Statewide virtual job fair continues through today

A KansasWorks statewide virtual job fair will continue today, according to the governor’s office.

The usual state Department of Commerce in-person job fairs have been moved online this year to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to officials.

In the job fair, job seekers may chat with employers across the state through their computers and mobile devices. Three more virtual job fairs are planned later this year, adding to the four that have already been held.

In July, 189 employers and 1,182 job seekers participated in one of these virtual job fairs.

For the rest of the year, virtual job fairs are scheduled Sept. 22-24, Oct. 27-29 and Dec. 8-9.

For more information and registration, visit

Kansans stuck waiting while state works through 25,000 unemployment claims

A massive backlog of unemployment claims, and the state’s struggle to verify them, has left people already without jobs lacking the benefit checks that they might have gotten in normal times.

by Stephen Koranda, Kansas News Service

Topeka, Kansas — The Kansas Department of Labor has struggled to handle an explosion of unemployment filings.

That’s left 25,000 claims waiting for approval — and thousands of Kansans standing by for the checks that could help them stay afloat through a jobless stretch in an economy battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s the latest challenge for a department that has attempted to respond to emails and phone calls from thousands of Kansans as the coronavirus caused unemployment in the state to jump from around 3 percent to almost 12 percent earlier this year. It’s since settled to 7.5 percent.

The huge backlog is in a holding pattern. The cases are waiting on adjudication and appeals that require more information, like why someone lost a job.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly appointed Ryan Wright acting labor secretary after the former secretary left amid criticism over the slow response to unemployment claims.

“I know it’s been extremely frustrating,” Wright told lawmakers this week. “All I can do is take responsibility for what’s happened and be as honest and transparent as possible moving forward.”

Lawmakers told state Labor Department staff about constituents waiting for months and failing to get answers on the delay in their unemployment payments.

“Hearing some of the stories of people losing their homes and their cars is heartbreaking,” Republican Sen. Richard Hilderbrand said.

Wright wouldn’t commit to a timeline for clearing people hung up in the backlog.

“What they don’t want to hear is us giving a timeframe that we’re not able to meet,” Wright said in an interview.

The backlog for regular unemployment applications is much smaller right now, about 2,300, which is caused by the normal time it takes to process the requests. Unemployed Kansans must file weekly claims and they’re often paid just a few days after claims are accepted.

Wright said there typically isn’t a significant backlog for applications in the adjudication system.

The applications accumulated as staff were shifted to other areas to deal with the influx of unemployment claims.

“We needed more people to answer the phones to take those claims in,” Wright said.

In addition, questions on the application required by the federal government caused confusion for some people and caused much of the adjudication backlog.

Kansans were frequently confused by questions on the application asking if they were able and available to work. People whose jobs were closed by the coronavirus shutdown could think they should answer no, but that flags the application for further review.

Wright said the agency is studying the legality of simply clearing thousands of people in the adjudication process who were hung up by those two questions.

Anyone caught in the backlog will be eligible for payments they missed out on because of the delay.

“If you are owed that money, you will get paid that money,” Wright said. “We will figure this out.”

The state hired a private consultant, Accenture, after the long delays and chronic problems in its unemployment benefits system became a crisis during the pandemic. That brought in 50 more people to work with the Labor Department, and freed more state workers to chip away at the adjudication backlog.

The agency has struggled with outdated technology. Information Technology Director Bill Periman told legislators that updates planned to come online could make it easier to sift through the huge pile of applications.

“We hope to have a solution,” Periman said, “if we can identify some processes where we can address the greatest pain points.”

Republican Sen. Kevin Braun urged the department to commit to a timeframe for clearing the backlog, and Periman said some improvements could be in place in 90 days.

“Our constituents are still in a very tough place,” Braun said. “We need a forecast on when we are going to stabilize.”

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda or email skoranda (at) ku (dot) edu.
Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to

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Virtual job fair being held today through Thursday

The KansasWorks statewide virtual job fair is being held today, July 28, through Thursday, July 30.

“We need to maintain a strong, healthy workforce in our state, and getting Kansans back to work safely is one of my top priorities,” Gov. Laura Kelly said. “The KansasWorks virtual job fair has proven to be a creative and effective way to connect Kansans with jobs opportunities, and will be important as our economy recovers from the challenges of COVID-19.”

The virtual fair will allow job seekers to easily live chat with employers from across the state through computers and mobile devices. This is the third KansasWorks virtual job fair so far in 2020, with four more planned later this year.

The virtual job fair is online at

The Department of Commerce moved its statewide job fairs online this year to eliminate the public health risks associated with mass gatherings, while continuing to provide job opportunities for job seekers and maintain a ready workforce for Kansas businesses.

“Increasing employment opportunities and keeping our economy strong is a top priority of the Department of Commerce,” Secretary of Commerce David Toland said. “The need for both businesses and job seekers in our state is significant, but health and safety concerns mean it’s still not safe to hold in-person job fairs. The Virtual Statewide Job Fair system is a perfect example of how our KansasWorks team is continuing to provide Kansans access to employers in a way that protects everyone involved.”

In this year’s second virtual fair in June, approximately 165 employers and 1,497 jobseekers participated. Employers represented included:

• KanEquip, Inc.
• Foley Equipment
• Fuller Industries
• Johns Manville
• National Beef
• PKM Steel Service Inc.
• Salina Regional Health Center
• Cornejo
• Russell Stover
• Reser’s Fine Foods
• Johnsonville
• Dillons
• Glassman Corporation
• CivicPlus
• Bombardier Aviation
• Creekstone Farms
• Southwest Medical Center
• Farmers Insurance
• Goodwill Industries of Kansas
• Emprise Bank
• Wichita Public Schools
• The University of Kansas

As concerns for the health and safety of Kansans remain high due to COVID-19, the Department of Commerce will maintain the virtual job fair system for the remainder of 2020. Future statewide events are scheduled for:

• Aug. 25-27
• Sept. 22-24
• Oct. 27-29
• Dec. 8-9
Updates will be provided with employer and jobseeker registration links for each individual virtual fair.