Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment is warning unemployment recipients that the extra federal benefit of $600 will end this month, just as the state’s unemployment rate ticked up slightly last month to 10.5 percent.
Cher Roybal Haavind, deputy executive director of the department, said they don’t want people getting the benefit to be “startled” when the money goes away. The state has paid out $1.9 billion through this extra federal benefit, and more than $3.5 billion total in unemployment assistance since the end of March.
The future of the federal unemployment benefit is one of the major differences between Democrats and Republicans in Congress, as leaders struggle to come to an agreement on another coronavirus relief package in the next few weeks.
House Democrats included extending the federal benefits as part of the Heroes Act, but some Republicans have expressed concerns that it provides a disincentive to work. Senate Democrats most recently proposed tying the extra benefit to the unemployment rate, so that it will decrease as employment goes up, while some Republican senators floated lowering the benefit to between $200 to $400.
Even if Congress can agree before the deadline, it may take a while for the results of that deal to reach Coloradans
“It is likely because of the looming expiration ... that there may be a gap in terms of when we are able to program our systems if there is a change in the benefit amount and administer those benefits,” Haavind said.
The last date the extra federal benefit can be filed for is July 25, Haavind said.
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Haavind said there are other programs that can continue to help unemployed people if Congress does not act, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for gig workers and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which extends unemployment benefits at the normal rate an extra 13 weeks.
Although Colorado saw a 0.3 percent unemployment increase in June from May, senior economist Ryan Gedney said that number should still be viewed positively, as the state’s labor force grew by 100,200 last month.
“It means more people are reentering Colorado's labor market and actively seeking employment opportunities," Gedney said.
The number of individuals employed in Colorado increased by 80,100 in June to more than 2.8 million.
This latest employment snapshot of the Colorado economy reflects the point several weeks ago when the state started opening up and people returned to work under Gov. Jared Polis’ Safer At Home order.