employment

Nadya Faulx / KMUW

One day you’re working from an office in downtown Wichita, the next you’re conducting business out of the spare bedroom downstairs.

Among the many changes the pandemic has caused, perhaps none has impacted people more than having to work from home.

TOPEKA, Kansas — The economic shutdown driven by the COVID-19 outbreak put Sherri Calderwood out of work.

Then her job waiting tables opened up again.

But that opportunity came with a tough choice, one she shares with millions of other Americans: Somehow manage without a paycheck or risk her health earning a living.

Several years ago, she had a blood disease that required doctors to remove her spleen, a fist-sized organ that helps the body fight infection.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Protesters angry about the stay-at-home order in Kansas and the tens of thousands of people it’s tossed from work rallied at the state Capitol Thursday.

They clogged traffic on the four blocks that ring the Statehouse for more than an hour, honking on horns, calling out slogans on bullhorns and pressing Gov. Laura Kelly to reopen businesses in the state.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — The more Kansas tests people for the coronavirus, the clearer it becomes that black Kansans are being disproportionately affected — a sobering trend that is true in communities across the U.S.

Black Kansans are three times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 than white people, and more than seven times more likely to die from the virus. Latinos are also about three times as likely to test positive for COVID-19.

The data mirrors trends seen in across U.S. cities like New York, Chicago and Detroit, as well as other states.

TOPEKA, Kansas — A month into the economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak, one thing is clear: The Kansas Department of Labor found itself unprepared for a record number of jobless claims filed by people suddenly tossed out of work.

“It’s completely unprecedented,” said Brett Flachsbarth, deputy secretary and a 15-year veteran of the agency.

Since March 14, more than 160,000 Kansans have filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits. That is a 2,457% increase over the previous month.

The coronavirus continues to spread in Kansas. The result of emergency orders is that many people are staying in their homes.

The shutdown of businesses across the state has triggered a record wave of people seeking unemployment benefits. The public health emergency has also forced politicians off the campaign trail.

On this week’s Statehouse Blend Kansas, Jim McLean talks with the manager of one U.S. Senate campaign to find out how that candidate is adapting.

Stephan Bisaha / Kansas News Service

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kansas — Nikki Heiman was excited to learn that the state was sending a job counselor to work with her son, Trenton, a high school student with Down syndrome.

But that excitement fizzled when Heiman learned the specialist could only meet with Trenton once a month — and only for 15 minutes. That’s all the time the counselor could squeeze into her schedule while handling a large caseload that forces her to shuttle between multiple counties.

Over the last five years, almost 15,000 workers disappeared from the Kansas workforce.

During the same timeframe, the state is growing economically, with a recent monthly report showing 14,000 jobs created in the last year and unemployment at 3.3%. That’s below the national rate. 

Despite the good news, Kansas officials see a long-term challenge: having enough employees to fill the state’s jobs, especially in high-demand careers like nursing and accounting.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

Adult education programs offered by Kansas’ colleges and school districts are increasingly bringing classes to workers where they already are: at work.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service/File photo

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly on Thursday dropped a policy that allowed several thousand Kansas adults to keep receiving food assistance after failing to meet a work requirement, reversing course days after the state's Republican attorney general threatened to file a lawsuit.

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