Capitol Update: Rep. Owen Donohoe talks concerns with fraudulent unemployment claims

Rep. Owen Donohoe said an independent audit found the state's unemployment system has returned an estimated $600 million in paid fraudulent claims. File photo. 

Each week, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Owen Donohoe, Rep. Jarrod Ousley and Sen. Ethan Corson are scheduled to send updates this week.

Below is the submission from Republican State Rep. Owen Donohoe who represents District 39.

We just completed the final week of the 2021 session to work out bills. Next week the whole House will take up and debate bills on many subjects. Some of the highlights of our accomplishments include:

  • We have addressed laws that needed to change because of court decisions. If we had not done so, guilty people might have gotten away with crime or been released too soon.
  • We have taken action on bills requested by the Department of Agriculture to help farmers.
  • We have taken necessary action to extend programs that help the economic development and future growth of our state.
  • We have ensured that the citizens of Kansas have the right to place basic regulations on the abortion industry to protect both mothers and babies.

I sit on the Social Services Budget, Education and Financial Institutions and Rural Development Committees. Here I’ll address the state unemployment crisis and touch on highlights in other key areas.

Help for the Unemployed

This week the non-partisan Legislative Division of Post Audit announced its report on fraud in the state’s unemployment system. Their independent investigation returned an estimate of $600 million in fraudulent claims paid by the Governor’s administration.

I stand with my fellow house members working to add accountability and oversight to the governor’s failures at the Department of Labor. The House Commerce Committee has passed out HB 2196 which will help modernize and fix this broken system, while adding accountability that is sorely lacking from the Governor’s office. We will help Kansans get back on their feet.

I’ve received hundreds of requests for help from people seeking unemployment benefits and experiencing difficulties with their claims. I’ve worked diligently with the Labor Dept. to facilitate their legitimate claims, and Labor Dept. officials have commended my work. I’ll continue to work to bring help to the unemployed; please email me at owen.donohoe@house.ks.gov.

Help for those with Disabilities

As many of you know, I’m a tireless champion for those with disabilities. I’ve made good on my campaign promise to eliminate the waiting list for services to thousands of Kansans with intellectual, physical and developmental disabilities.

Last year, we were successful in adding $22 million to the social services budget to address this waiting list, which had deprived people of disability benefits for as many as 20 years. However, when the pandemic hit, the Governor cut those benefits for our state’s most vulnerable citizens. She made no cuts in the largest state budget area, education, despite the fact that hundreds of millions in federal relief funding was headed there.

This session, I have introduced and sponsored HB 2382, which would fund services for individuals waiting to receive intellectual or developmental disability home and community-based services. It would also assist disability services providers in retaining critical staff. The bill has moved to Appropriations, and I will continue to advocate in support this long-overdue funding.

Looking Ahead

I was re-elected to continue bringing reasoned, values-based leadership to Kansas government. Although we face steep funding challenges and key decisions to help Kansans in need and restore our economy, I’m confident that we can create a path to recovery that strengthens our state. I welcome your requests and comments at owen.donohoe@house.ks.gov.