Legislative Update from Representative Shannon Francis

Newsletter - January 31, 2021

Unemployment Fraud

I know many of you have discussed the problem of unemployment fraud with me.  Kansas is currently third in the nation for unemployment claims, behind California and Illinois and is responsible for over 9% of all unemployment claims in the United States but has less than 1% of the nation’s population. Kansas has seen 1 million claims for initial unemployment benefits. With about 1.5 million in our workforce, that is nearly 7 claims for every 10 working Kansans. Unemployment in Kansas was only 3.8% as of December 2020.  Fraud is crowding out legitimate claims for Kansans in need. 
 My colleagues and I have been pushing for the administration to fix these problems for months.  Last March the U.S. Department of Labor warned that fraud was coming.  Despite interim committees asking for information, standing committees asking for information, and requests from legislators; the Governor and her staff have not produced detailed information about this fraud or taken effective steps to fix it. 
The Kansas Unemployment Trust Fund was strong when the pandemic started with over $1 Billion in reserve. The balance is now less than a third of that. Some experts estimate that somewhere between $300 and $400 Million of the trust funds may have been paid out as fraudulent claims.
The two most common types of employers in the Kansas system are reimbursement employers and trust fund employers. Schools, public universities and not for profits are usually reimbursement employers. The state pays their claims and then sends them a statement to get paid back. The first quarterly statements have begun going out and in one Topeka school district there were $775,000 in fraudulent claims that the state had paid out. With federal reimbursement applied, that school district will still owe the state nearly $400,000 for claims that never should have been paid and that the school district never authorized to be paid.
Businesses are trust fund employers. They pay for unemployment insurance that builds the trust fund and helps keep costs predictable. But when fraudulent claims are paid someone must refill the trust fund. Our businesses will see their premiums skyrocket to refill the trust fund. It is predicted that some businesses could see increases so large that they will pay more in unemployment insurance than they pay in income taxes.
This week House Republicans introduced a bill that would hold schools, universities, not for profits and businesses harmless from fraudulent claims. It was this action and the mounting pressure from our caucus that finally forced the Governor to admit the problems had gotten so big that she had to act, and that the unemployment system was overrun with fraud. Unfortunately, the problem has ballooned to the point that they must shut down the unemployment computer system to implement additional security measures. The system will be down from January 30 through 7 a.m. February 2.  While I do not support shutting down the unemployment system for multiple days, it is finally some action to stop this massive fraud.
Read more from media coverage.

On the Floor

This week the House sent three bills to the Senate for passage.

HB 2022 – this bill consolidated two funds managed by the Kansas Corporation Commission for the plugging of abandoned oil and gas wells and clarified the Commission’s authority to have the responsible party pay for well plugging. This is a measure to increase efficiency and clean up hazardous abandoned wells.

HB 2026 – creates a certified drug treatment plan for people who are on diversion. When a county attorney decides to allow a diversion instead of criminal prosecution, this bill will allow that attorney to refer the person on diversion to a treatment program to help address substance abuse. Often drug addiction leads to criminal behaviors. By allowing for treatment for those who commit low level offenses, this bill can help get a person with addiction treatment sooner and avoid further criminal behavior, increasing public safety and saving the taxpayers money. 

HB 2008 – allows for the Attorney General to coordinate training among law enforcement agencies to highlight and address the high rates of missing and murdered among the Native American population. Members of Native American tribes, and specifically women are 10 times more likely to be the victim of murder than the average national murder rate.

HCR 5003 – on Thursday, the Senate passed the Value Them Both Amendment. With the Senate passage, Kansas voters will have the opportunity to decide whether the Legislature will continue to have the authority to regulate the abortion industry, within the boundaries set by federal law and U.S. Supreme Court rulings. The question will appear on the ballot in August 2022..

The latest on vaccine distribution

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Kansas is lagging in distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. On Tuesday, the CDC COVID Data Tracker ranked Kansas 47th in the nation, ahead of only Alabama, Idaho, and Nevada.

Dr. Lee Norman, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health & Environment (KDHE), provided an update to legislative committees this week on the “find my vaccine” portion of the website. He advised Kansans in Phase 2 who are interested in being vaccinated to start by checking with their local county health departments.  Seward County information on vaccine availability, locations, and a sign-up list can be found at Seward County Connect.

Dr. Norman also gave an update on allocation of the vaccine. Kansas is estimated to continue to receive approximately 45,000 doses each week, and there are 800,000 Kansans that fall into Phase 2. On Wednesday, the Governor indicated Kansas’ allocated doses will be increasing by 16 percent for the next three weeks, which would increase the 45,000 doses figure. 

Here are some additional resources:  

Legislative Forum

Saturday, February 6th, at 9:00 am I will be having a legislative forum sponsored by the Liberal Chamber of Commerce and AT&T at the Chamber offices in The Rock Island Depot at 4 Rock Island Road, Liberal KS  67901.  

Constituent Services

Thank you for the opportunity to continue serving working families in Seward County. Please reach out to me any time I can assist you with a state agency concern. I do ask that you send the request to me by email. This ensures that I get the information correctly to the agency we are working with.  You can reach me when I’m in Topeka by email, by phone (785) 296-7466, or by mail at 300 SW 10th Avenue, 274-W, Topeka, KS 66612

Contact Shannon

At the Legislature

Room: 274-W
State Capitol Building
300 SW 10th Street
Topeka, KS 66612
Phone: 785-296-7466

At Home:

1501 Tucker Court
Liberal, Kansas 67901
Phone: 620-624-9571

Useful Resources

State of Kansas Website

The Kansas Legislature

Legislative Bill Reports

Listen Live to Proceedings

Find a State Agency

Kansas Unclaimed Property

Current Road Conditions

National Do Not Call List

Kansas Charity Check

Useful Phone Numbers

Department On Aging

Child/Adult Abuse Hotline

Child & Family Services

Consumer Protection

Crime Tip Hotline

Crime Victims'
Information Referral

Disability / Social
Security Fraud Hotline

Edler Abuse Hotline
Governor Laura Kelly
Constituent Services

Highway Road Conditions
In-State Dial 511

Housing Hotline

KanCare Clearinghouse

Kansas Lottery

Legislative Hotline

Mental Health Services

National Suicide
Prevention Lifeline

School Safety Hotline

Taxpayer Assistance

Tax Refund Status

Unclaimed Property

Unemployment Insurance

Voter Registration

Welfare Fraud Hotline

Workmans Compensation

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