UPDATE, Sept. 19, 9:30 a.m.: State officials say payments are on their way, and technical difficulties have been addressed.
Our original story continues below.
For Coloradans anxiously awaiting the extra emergency unemployment benefit that President Donald Trump authorized in a memo in early August the wait is almost over. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment says it will begin paying out the $300 federal unemployment by the end of next week.
About 350,000 in Colorado would be able to get the benefit that will be paid out of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s coffers.
Colorado won approval for the temporary benefit boost 10 days after the president’s announcement. The delay in getting the payment to claimants arose from the time it took for Colorado to program and update their systems to make these payments both retroactively and for potential future weeks. The state also had to figure out the technology to allow regular UI claimants to claim that their hardship is from COVID-19 which is both a U.S. Department of Labor and FEMA requirement and develop the appropriate file orchestration for payment through banks.
“With every variation comes reprogramming, requirements, and adjusting our systems to meet whatever the new round of benefits look like in terms of amount, duration, and eligibility,” said Cher Haavind, deputy executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
She noted the benefit is on track to come out when originally expected which was mid-September. Any new benefit that comes from the federal level is going to take time to implement.
Haavind said this was a similar issue during The Great Recession when there were up to 99 weeks of benefits available. Any time a new benefit was created, it was never immediate relief to claimants because of the time it takes to update systems. This new federal money comes after the $600 unemployment benefit expired on July 25. That means about six percent of claimants will not be eligible because they don’t meet that threshold.
As of Thursday, the state had applied for six weeks worth of benefits and been approved for five. Those who are eligible can receive this retroactively from weeks July 26 to Aug. 29.
The state is waiting to be approved through Sept. 5.
The U.S Department of Labor and FEMA told all states that it will be not funding past the sixth week. For people who were already under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, they don’t have to do anything.
For people who were only getting regular unemployment benefits, they need to certify that they’re out of work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a one-time certification.
How To Claim The New Unemployment Benefit
- Access the state’s virtual agent either online or by phone through the regular unemployment insurance call center line.
- Say the phrase ‘Lost Wages Assistance’
- It will then ask you who you are. This is when you say your first and last name. The system will then look up to see if a person is eligible for the benefit. To be eligible, claimants must have had an active claim for the weeks that are covered by the program.
- The system will then ask if a person is unemployed because of the pandemic shutdowns. If the answer is yes, the prompt will say there are no more steps necessary and then ask to check your email inbox for further instructions. If the answer is no, the prompt will ask a clarifying question and if the answer is still no, then the system will terminate the session telling them they are not eligible.
Payments will begin to be processed late next week. Eligible claimants should expect an email within the next week.
Correction: a previous version stated that people who received the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) wouldn't need to certify. People who are already under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance are the ones who don't need to certify.