Unemployment Benefits for Kansas Workers Affected by COVID-19

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By James Bailey, CPA

In the past week or so, we have seen unprecedented economic and social effects of the coronavirus outbreak in Kansas and nationwide. The situation changes almost daily, and it can seem overwhelming to try to keep up with the latest updates.

For workers in Kansas who are laid off due to COVID-19, the good news is that there are resources, statewide and federally, to help you. Pending legislation on top of existing benefits can help to ease the burden of sudden and unexpected unemployment.

The more than 130,000 Kansas workers in the restaurant industry are among the hardest hit, as non-essential businesses have been asked to close, and the restaurants that stay open are limited to take-out or delivery only. For businesses that close or substantially reduce their operations during this time, the following information may be helpful as a starting point for claiming and collecting unemployment benefits.

Unemployment benefits will vary based on how much the employee has previously earned but will be between $122 and $488 per week. A maximum of 16 weeks of paid unemployment benefits are available in Kansas.

Kansas employers have the option of speeding up the unemployment claims process. They can go to the Kansas Department of Labor website here and submit layoff information on behalf of affected employees.

 

There are several advantages to doing this, such as:

  • It’s faster: there’s zero wait, which speeds up benefits for employees
  • Direct communication: the point person will be an Employer Relations Representative, versus general communications via the Unemployment Contact Center
  • Reduced chance for unemployment fraud: employers are asked to preemptively include a return-to-work date, thereby reducing the risk of an employee collecting benefits after they return to work
  • More efficient reporting process: employers will receive one spreadsheet with all employee claims, rather than an Employer Notice for each employee who files
  • Improved employee goodwill: because this is a more efficient way of filing for unemployment, employees can rest assured knowing that the first step is already done because their employer is vested in their well-being

It is still the employees’ responsibility to file weekly claims once the process is started.

To claim Kansas unemployment benefits, you must be either not working and not getting paid or working less than full-time due to reduced wages or hours. If paid sick leave wages are more than unemployment compensation are ineligible for unemployment during that week. Further, under COVID-19, as long as you are able to work, you do not have to look for work to remain eligible for unemployment.

Finally, the weeklong waiting period before unemployment benefits kick in has been waived.

Individual workers whose employers have not filed on their behalf can file an unemployment claim here: www.getkansasbenefits.gov.

Finally, the Kansas Restaurant & Hospitality Association has this PDF resource for restaurant owners and operators who need the latest and more accurate guidance on COVID-19 awareness, prevention, and monitoring.

Are you unsure of your next steps, either as a business owner or employee? Contact us for responsive answers to your questions.