TOPEKA, Kan. – People gathered outside the Kansas Department of Labor Wednesday for what they described as an “Unemployment Crisis Awareness Event”.
Those who attended the event dubbed “Prisoners of a Broken KDOL System” wore colored yarn around their wrists to coincide with their unemployment struggles.
“It’s not about living off the system, it’s because we lost our jobs due to a pandemic and yeah, we can get another job but that’s not gonna get us out of the hole that we’re in now because we depended on KDOL and we depended on our elected officials to help us before it got this bad,” event host Re’Nae Pherigo said.
“Their system is not working like they tell us it’s an instant loop of misery.”
13 NEWS told Pherigo, who ended a hunger strike against KDOL earlier this month, about the recent decrease in unemployment complaints the newsroom has received.
“I know it’s hard to pay attention to a problem that doesn’t really concern you and so if this isn’t affecting you or somebody you love it’s easy to look over,” she responded.
“But if our farms continue to shut down and our businesses continue to close that’s not okay.”
The event caught the attention of state Representative Adam Thomas (R-Olathe).
“I think the frustration lies in that were a year into this and we’ve been told certain things by the government and they’re frustrated because we’re a year in people have been getting paid we have $600 million in fraud and they’re not seeing a lot of progress so I think it’s frustration,” he said.
“These people are not looking for a handout. They’re looking for what’s rightfully theirs, and I’m out here just to help these people and be part of this. It’s not anything other than helping people out.”
In a statement to 13 NEWS about the event KDOL said:
“KDOL respects every American’s right to peacefully protest. We continue to strive to get every legitimate claimant paid every dollar they are due….We are adding up to 500 more customer service staff.”