Governor Laura Kelly today announced Amber Shultz, Lawrence, as the new Secretary of the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL). Shultz will serve in an acting capacity until the Kansas Senate confirms her as the new head of the agency.
“When we began the search for the permanent Secretary of the Kansas Department of Labor, we knew we needed someone who could both lead the agency in its continued efforts to improve services for unemployed Kansans and oversee a complete overhaul of the out-of-date IT system,” Governor Kelly said. “Amber has a wealth of leadership experience when it comes to technology and innovation, and I have no doubt she will hit the ground running at the Department of Labor as we work to modernize the unemployment insurance system.”
Shultz has 25 years of experience in technology and innovation, with an emphasis on creating value, strengthening community, and leading with purpose.
Amber began her professional career as a Research Assistant at the Kansas Data Access & Support Center at the Kansas Geological Survey, and has since held many positions in Kansas and Missouri related to data and asset management, systems administration, and technical innovation.
Most recently, she worked as the General Manager of Municipal Services & Operations Department for the City of Lawrence. During her time there, she worked to rebuild the city’s enterprise and operational services, facilitate efficient data management, and cultivate superior public service for Lawrence community members.
She has a Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Arts, all from the University of Kansas.
“I am honored and excited that Governor Kelly has provided me this opportunity to serve,” Shultz said. “I value public service along with utilizing innovation and technology to solve problems, and I will use this experience along with our team to address the challenges ahead.”
“I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to Ryan Wright and Brett Flachsbarth, who both served as Acting Secretaries of Labor while we searched for the right candidate to fill the position permanently,” Governor Kelly said. “Under their leadership, and with the dedication of many hardworking KDOL employees, the agency made important progress in stabilizing the antiquated unemployment system, reducing the claim backlog and getting funds to Kansans who need it most.”
Governor Kelly announced as part of her proposed budget that the state would allocate $37.5 million to resume the process of modernizing KDOL’s 40-year-old IT system, that had been paused since the beginning of the pandemic. The Kansas Department of Labor has made significant progress addressing unemployment claims this year in spite of a record number of claimants, including:
- Returning the agency to normal operations in all program areas, including workers’ compensation and industrial safety and health.
- Instituted a fraud program that has stopped over 250,000 fraudulent claims: www.ReportFraud.ks.gov.
- Implementing an enhanced LexisNexis identity verification security system with multifactor authentication for the unemployment benefits system. Once the system is live on February 2, the new system will greatly reduce or eliminate fraudulent claim notices from being sent to identity theft victims and employers.
- Since March 15, paying out more than 3.9 million weekly claims totaling over $2.6 billion in unemployment. Previously, it took 8 years to reach $2 billion in unemployment payments.
- Today, KDOL has eliminated the backlog of regular unemployment claims, which totaled approximately 25,000 at the height of the pandemic in June, 2020.
- Made significant progress on the buildout of the PUA Unemployment System, including a critical component that allows the agency to address the PUA backlog. Since completing a system upgrade at the end of November, the department has reduced the PUA backlog from 25,000 claims to approximately 9,900 claimants. Now claimants can more easily provide required documentation and KDOL can make determinations in a more timely manner.
- Improved call center customer service, added hundreds of new operators and streamlined operations. Now, once a caller enters an initial call queue they can speak to a customer service representative within 15 minutes. If the call queues are full they are not able to connect to the system, which prevents callers from remaining on hold for hours.