Want to file for unemployment benefits in Kansas this weekend? You'll have to wait

Titus Wu
Topeka Capital-Journal
Residents across the state have received letters from the Kansas Department of Labor  about the status of unemployment claims they never applied for.

If you are looking to file for unemployment benefits this weekend, you should probably wait until Tuesday.

The Kansas Department of Labor announced Wednesday that unemployment benefit servers will be taken offline to be upgraded. Servers will go offline about 2 p.m. Saturday and be back up about 7 a.m. Tuesday, Gov. Laura Kelly told reporters.

When the system comes back up, there will be an enhanced verification process in partnership with LexisNexis.

Right now, a name and Social Security number is mostly what is needed, said Kelly, but now, there will be additional verification information, such as personalized questions "that will be very difficult to steal off of." In addition, the claimant will have to set up two-factor authentication for his or her benefit account. 

Delays on benefits requests will be expected, but the department said claimants will get any back pay owed as a result of the hold on Tuesday.

This comes as Republican lawmakers have criticized the governor for not handling the unemployment benefits backlog problem as well as they would like. Recently, Kansas has seen a surge in the number of claims. As of two weeks ago, the state ranked third in the number of claims filed.  

The surge could be related to the number of fraudulent claims, which experts have said Kansas is susceptible to because of the state's antiquated system. 

Once the new system is in place, the Department of Labor anticipates "a decline or outright elimination of fraudulent benefit notices that individuals and businesses have been receiving from KDOL," it said in a release.

The department will also be able to make payments more quickly to legitimate claimants with the upgrade.

“These upgrades will identify and stop the flood of fraudulent claims Kansas and states across the country have been fighting against, so the team at the Department of Labor will have more time to help unemployed Kansans," Kelly said.

Since mid-March, Kansas paid out over 3.9 million weekly claims totaling over $2.6 billion between regular unemployment and the federal pandemic programs, according to a news release.