Labor secretary resigns after claimants’ bank accounts overdrawn

Brianna Childers
Delia Garcia has resigned from her position as Kansas Department of Labor Secretary.

Kansas Department of Labor Secretary Delía García has resigned from her position after that department overdrafted bank accounts of Kansans applying for unemployment.

Gov. Laura Kelly’s office announced the resignation Monday morning in a news release and said the governor will be taking several actions to address issues related to KDOL’s ability to handle the amount of unemployment insurance claims brought on by COVID-19.

Kelly’s Chief of Staff Ryan Wright will fill the position until a permanent candidate is chosen.

“As governor, I’m responsible for KDOL’s handling of unemployment claims,” Kelly said. “I am taking immediate action to ensure Kansans who are out of work, through no fault of their own, are getting the assistance they need. I want to thank Secretary García for her service to Kansas. While states around the country have struggled to manage unemployment claims during the worst public health crisis in a century, Secretary García inherited an agency that had its funding, its technology, and its staff gutted by the previous administration.”

Kelly said duplicate payments were made on June 10 to more than 4,500 claimants of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation which totaled about $7 million.

Those payments were made without consulting the governor, Kelly said, and KDOL attempted to reverse the duplications on June 18.

This process, known as a clawback, caused some claimants’ bank accounts to be overdrawn.

Kelly said the department of labor is working with its partner banks to identify and reimburse any claimant whose bank account was overdrawn.

“These last few months have been unusually stressful on everyone,” Kelly said. “State government employees in Kansas and around the country have been asked to deal with an unusually high volume of activity. We have the responsibility to the people we represent to get it right. And when we don’t, we’ll make the changes needed to fix the problem. I will use every resource at my disposal to ensure that we improve our response time to Kansans and build an infrastructure at KDOL that will be prepared in the event of further economic impacts from COVID-19.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic started, KDOL has been trying to get a firm grasp on the uptick of out-of-work Kansans applying for unemployment.

The department has dealt with issues like website crashes, system failures, payment delays and unanswered questions.

Garcia said in May the situation had improved after an IT SWAT team was deployed, the department received additional help from the Amazon call center and more staff members were hired.

Senate President Susan Wagle lauded Kelly for recognizing the department of labor’s broken system and those who have been wronged by it.

“I continue to hear from many unemployed Kansans who aren’t receiving the checks that are due to them, or qualified recipients who have been unexpectedly cut off from payments without notice or reason,” Wagle said in a statement. “I am waiting expectantly to see what the next chapter of the Kansas Department of Labor looks like.”