Colorado's unemployment benefits system will be offline for several days this week as the state makes the leap to a new software system.
The upgrade may solve some of the frustrations that came with an old, glitchy system. But the transition came with some headaches.
Last week, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment sent an email telling unemployment recipients to file their requests for benefits earlier than usual this week. But the message also went to people for whom it didn't apply.
Here's what you need to know:
- The MyUI unemployment system, including the website and the phone-based claims system, will be offline starting around noon on Tuesday, Jan. 5. An upgraded system, MyUI+, is scheduled to launch on Sunday. More information about the transition is available online.
- Regular unemployment: People who are still receiving regular unemployment benefits should file this week's claims before noon on Tuesday, even if their regular payment request day is later in the week. If you have collected fewer than 27 weeks of benefits, you are on regular benefits in Colorado.
- Regular unemployment, Sunday requestors only: Recipients whose normal payment request day is Sunday should also file their requests for next week early. In other words, if you would normally file on Jan. 10, you should do that before noon on Jan. 5 instead. That's because the system will still be down for part or all of Sunday. The system may generate a warning that your claim will be closed if you do this. Disregard this message and click "continue" anyway, CDLE says.
- PEUC and PUA: Most people on the extended PEUC benefits and the PUA program should not attempt to file a request. That's because those federal programs — the extended PEUC benefits and the PUA program for gig workers and the self-employed — are not active right now. Those programs expired at the end of the year and will not resume for several weeks. (Congress approved an 11-week extension of unemployment benefits late last month, but the state's is still setting it up.)
- However, some people on PEUC and PUA may still have some leftover weeks they can claim. If you are eligible for payment on weeks up to the week of Dec. 26 but haven't requested it, file a claim before the system goes down at noon on Tuesday.
So, what happened with that email?
The message urging people to file early was only meant for people on the regular unemployment program. But it inadvertently went to people for whom it didn't apply, too.
The mailing list included many people on extended benefits or the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for gig workers and the self employed. For the most part, people on those programs should not be filing requests at all right now, since the programs are temporarily expired.
The inadvertent messages sowed confusion among self-help groups for unemployed people. People on PUA rushed to file their requests, only to be rebuffed or encounter technical errors.
"It was panic, confusion and panic," said Erin Joy Swank, an administrator for a Facebook group. The group's membership increased by about 500 people on Saturday night, a 20-percent spike that Swank attributes to confusion over the email.
CDLE has since sent out multiple clarifying emails. Swank said that by Monday afternoon the department had delivered a better explanation. Still, she worried that many people would be surprised when the system went dark on Tuesday, resulting in delayed benefit payments.
Cher Roybal Haavind, deputy executive director for CDLE, wrote in an email that more than 100,000 people successfully requested payment on Sunday.
She did not answer a question about how many people had received the initial mistaken email but wrote that it was a result of an outdated mailing list.