The Wichita Regional Chamber decided last month to support legislation extending unemployment insurance (UI) weekly benefits to 26 weeks (from the current formula-determined 16 weeks) until April 2021. This decision was made as a talent retention mechanism in response to the ongoing 737 Max supply chain layoffs. Click here for an excerpt from our “Advocate” weekly legislative update from Feb. 18 that provides a summary of this decision. Most of the South Central Kansas Legislative Delegation signed on to cosponsor to the UI bill (originally introduced as HB 2642) as well.
The ongoing COVID-19 situation has added some urgency to this effort for a couple of reasons. First, the Kansas Legislature is seeking to wrap up several key issues (e.g., the budget) this week so they can start their break early and practice “social distancing” per CDC recommendations. Second, the economic impact of COVID-19 remains to be seen in its entirety, but it is clear that many businesses and employees will experience significant financial harm. The extended UI benefits will help provide some stopgap support for many families that experience layoffs.
The House Commerce Committee heard the UI bill this morning. The Wichita Chamber testified in favor of this legislation. The committee amended the bill to eliminate the “waiting week” (to allow workers to receive UI benefits sooner) and made the bill retroactive to apply to new claims for UI benefits starting January 1, 2020 (which will help those who were impacted by aviation layoffs). The bill will sunset back to current law on April 1, 2021. If the statewide unemployment rate is 6.0% or higher at that point, the UI weekly benefits will remain at 26 weeks due to the current statutory formula.
The committee inserted this language into an empty senate bill, SB 27. The House passed this bill today by a vote of 119-0. The Senate then voted this afternoon to concur in the House amendments by a vote of 29-4. The UI benefits extension bill now heads to Governor Kelly’s desk. We expect it to be signed in short order.
If you have any questions, please contact Andrew Wiens, Vice President of Government Relations.