(The Center Square) – A coalition representing 8,000 Kansas businesses are asking Gov. Laura Kelly to end the state's participation in federal supplemental unemployment benefits.
"The Kansas Chamber, along with a number of other business advocacy organizations and Kansas employers, sent a letter to Gov. Kelly asking her to end the additional federal unemployment benefits and then met with her to discuss the issue," Sherriene Jones-Sontag, vice president of communications at Kansas Chamber of Commerce, told The Center Square.
Government unemployment benefits are hindering the efforts of Kansas businesses to fill more than 58,000 open positions, Kansas Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Alan Cobb said in a release.
“The tight labor market is the biggest concern for small businesses who are competing with various factors such as supplemental unemployment benefits, government-imposed restrictions and the virus,” Dan Murray, Kansas state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said in the release provided by the Kansas Chamber.
Twenty-four states have announced they will end participation in the federal government program, which provides claimants an additional $300 per week in unemployment benefits, before the program's official end in September.
The federal benefits are on top of state unemployment payments.
“The additional unemployment benefits served a critical purpose during the COVID-19 pandemic when government required businesses to close or reduce their operations," Cobb said. "However, Kansas has the pandemic under control and there are ample vaccines available. While our state’s economy is on the rebound, many employers are struggling to find workers. It is one thing for businesses to compete with one another for workers. It is entirely different for businesses to compete with government.”
Instead of the unemployment supplement, the group advocates redirecting available federal dollars toward incentivizing return-to-work with a signing bonus program, temporary childcare assistance and training/retraining initiatives for Kansans who might have lost their jobs during the pandemic but have struggled to re-enter the workforce.