A bill originally proposed to help laid off employees at Wichita’s Spirit Aerosystems is proving timely as more and more businesses shutter in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

On Tuesday, before heading home on a coronavirus extended break, members of the Kansas Legislature voted to extend weekly unemployment insurance benefits to 26 weeks, form the current 16 weeks. 

The extension was originally proposes as a talent retention mechanism in response to the ongoing 737 Max supply chain layoffs at Spirit.  However, the ongoing coronavirus crisis added some urgency to the effort.  The total impact of COVID-19 remains to be seen in its entirety, but it is clear that many businesses and employees will experience significant financial harm. 

The House Commerce Committee amended the bill to eliminate the “waiting week,” which allows individuals to receive UI benefits sooner.  They also made the bill retroactive to apply to new claims for UI benefits starting January 1, 2020, which will help those impacted by aviation layoffs.   

The bill will sunset back to current law on April 1, 2021. If the statewide unemployment rate is 6.0% or higher at that point, the UI weekly benefits will remain at 26 weeks.

The House passed the bill today by a vote of 119-0. The Senate then voted to concur to the House amendments by a vote of 29-4. The UI benefits extension bill now heads to Governor Kelly’s desk. She is expected to sign it. 

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