Cessna Layoffs Come Amidst Benefit Backlog

By: Stephanie Diffin Email
By: Stephanie Diffin Email

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September 22, 2010

There are new fears for unemployed Kansans, as they get news their numbers may soon grow, by hundreds. Many people are already waiting for unemployment benefits as the state faces a backlog of applications. This, as Cessna announces more layoffs this week.

The state's backlog is getting smaller, after the Department of Labor increased staff and started working overtime. But now, a new round of layoffs could add to the problem. And for those already on the wait list, it's devastating news.

"I've done what I've been asked to do all my life, and apparently that's just not good enough anymore," said Tim Pouncey, who recently lost his job as a social worker.

Now, he says he's waiting for unemployment benefits, but he won't be able to wait for long.

"If I can't get it set up, I could actually be homeless by Thanksgiving," said Pouncey.

It's a fear he says has become even more realistic, after this week's news that Cessna will be dropping 700 jobs.

"Scares me to death, it makes me more nervous not just for the length of time it takes to get benefits but it makes me nervous thinking of the number of people I'll be competing for, for the remaining jobs there are," said Pouncey.

The Kansas Department of Labor is already facing a backlog on unemployment benefits, after they expired June 2nd, and Congress didn't pass an extension until July 23rd. The department then had to make required programming changes which weren't finished until mid-August, and through all that time, workers couldn't process applications.

"That was a very difficult situation that we had to deal with. So we saw the paper applications coming in and we wanted to get those processed as soon as possible," said Annie Flachsbarth, with the KS Department of Labor.

So staff has been working mandatory overtime, coming in on weekends and holidays. The backlog is now down to just under 1,300 paper applications.

"Understand that we're trying to get these processed as soon as we can and as fast as possible," said Flachsbarth.

While Pouncey says he understands, it doesn't change his situation, as he desperately searches for a new job. And he says, the state just needs to figure out a way to get him the money that belongs to him.

"You're doing pretty much whatever you can just to keep the hope that somebody wants you, for some reason," said Pouncey.

The Department of Labor has also hired two dozen new employees, and pulled staff from other operations. The department says it's currently processing paper applications filed about a week ago.

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