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Federal unemployment benefits set to expire as Colorado claims continue to climb

Initial claims have risen every week since hitting a low point in September, CDLE data shows.

COLORADO, USA — Temporary federal unemployment benefits which were implemented earlier this year through the CARES Act are set to expire at the end of the month as new initial claims rise in Colorado, state labor officials said Thursday.

For the week ending Dec. 5, 19,024 regular claims were filed, which is about 2,000 more than the week prior, and is the highest it has been since May.

PUA claims also climbed. There were 17,232 claims last week compared with 15,219 for the week ending Nov. 28.

The most recent uptick is primarily driven by restaurants that were closed to indoor dining in counties that shifted to the red level on the state's COVID-19 dial. Other businesses that had to reduce their capacity limits under recent new health orders also impacted the numbers, CDLE said.

According to CDLE data, initial claims have risen steadily since the week the last week of September, when claims hit their lowest point since the pandemic began. That week there are 4,840 claims.

Since mid-March, a total of 662,508 regular initial unemployment claims have been filed for a grand total of 876,440 claims, including federal PUA benefits.

PUA which provides benefits for gig workers expires at the end of the year with the last payable week ending Dec. 26. The Federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (FPEUC) which provided an additional 13 weeks of benefits and the Work-Share program also expire at that time unless action is taken by Congress before then. 

The work-share program allowed employers to keep their employees working but with fewer hours. While they were working fewer hours they were eligible to receive a portion of regular unemployment benefits.

"As you can imagine this will be a hard stop for many folks who have to come to rely on these benefits during 2020," said Cher Haavind with CDLE. "There are a number of Congressional packages being discussed right now."

She said some of them appear to extend the programs into 2021 and another option being discussed could implement an additional $300 per week on top of state benefits. At this time nothing is set in stone. Even if action is taken, state labor officials said there would likely be a gap in benefits while the system is updated. 

RELATED: US jobless claims jump to 853,000 amid resurgence of coronavirus cases

In early November, the state unemployment rate fell below 5% which triggered an end to the State Extended Benefits(SEB) program, which provided an additional 13 weeks of benefits for those who had exhausted their regular benefits. SEB officially ended on Nov. 28.

About 16,000 claimants were receiving those benefits when they came to an end, Haavind said. Under federal rules the program cannot be implemented until 13 weeks have passed even if the unemployment rate is over 5%, state labor officials said.

CDLE said they've asked if the benefits can be retroactive, but said the 13-week waiting period before that benefit can kick in again cannot be waived.

View the data here 

Benefits paid since March 29 total $6.4 Billion

Regular UI $2.34 Billion
Week ending December 5: $34.5 Million

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
(gig workers/self-employed) $891.1 Million

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation
($600/weekly UI benefits to eligible claimants) $2.50 Billion

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation
(extends unemployment benefits by up to 13 weeks) $263.1 Million

State Extended Benefits
(extends unemployment benefits an additional 13 weeks) $26.3 Million

Lost Wages Assistance
($300/weekly UI benefits to eligible claimants) $379.1 Million

RELATED: As virus talks drag, Congress prepares temporary funding fix

CDLE and its partners are holding regular, no-cost trainings that can help unemployed Coloradans get rehired. 

A sampling of events is below: a complete list of events, workshops and training opportunities is available on the CDLE website.

Dec 15., 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Interviewing Workshop

Dec. 16, 10:30 a.m. -11 am. Careers in Construction

Dec. 17, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. Networking Workshop

Through Dec. 18: Arapahoe/Douglas Works! 

December 18, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm: Resume Workshop

A complete list of events workshops and trainings is available on the CDLE website.

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