Kansas is beset by fraudulent benefit claims. One was even filed in Gov. Laura Kelly's name.

Andrew Bahl
Topeka Capital-Journal
Gov. Laura Kelly takes questions regarding fraudulent unemployment claims filed with the Kansas Department of Labor while visiting the Kansas Air National Guard vaccination site Friday morning. Kelly said she was also a victim of the fraudulent claims.

So many fraudulent unemployment claims have been filed in Kansas that the list of residents affected includes Gov. Laura Kelly.

The governor told reporters Friday that she and her husband had received letters from the agency in the fall alerting her to an unemployment claim filed in her name.

A spokesperson for Kelly later said the Kellys reported the notice online shortly afterward and that she hasn't received a tax form in recent weeks related to the fraudulent filing, as many Kansans have.

The scope of fraud statewide is unknown, although Kansas Department of Labor officials said in the fall that upwards of 90% of all benefit applications filed were bogus. It is unclear how that figure has changed as initial unemployment claims in Kansas have spiked, which many believe is powered by fraudulent filings.

Virtually every state is dealing with fraud, but many have worried that Kansas' lax security system, in part tied to an aging back-end system, has made it a more attractive target for scammers.

KDOL leaders have acknowledged that some fake claims have been paid out and there is concern this could adversely affect both businesses and the unemployment trust fund going forward.

The state took the unemployment system offline last weekend to install stricter security measures, which KDOL said stopped more than 744,000 fraudulent attempts to log in since Tuesday morning.

KDOL officials have said they hope the changes will free resources to help legitimate claimants, with some Kansans still saying they are unable to get their benefits and unable to reach out to the agency to get answers.

Republican legislators are becoming increasingly frustrated with the agency.

"Either they are completely inept or they've been hiding something big, and I think it is the latter," said Rep. Sean Tarwater, R-Stilwell, during a House Republican caucus meeting Wednesday morning.

As a response, members are positioning a comprehensive bill to increase oversight on the matter, protect employers from having to pay out their share of any bogus claims and help get the ball rolling on a multimillion-dollar refresh of the unemployment systems.

Kelly said would "welcome their input to help make the process go better" and defended her administration's response.

"It's not like we aren't working. We are," she said. "There are problems, but we'll work through them."