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Colorado among slowest in nation at paying out unemployment in March

The Department of Labor and Employment said it was back to its pre-pandemic speed of paying out claims by the end of the month.

DENVER — Colorado was again among the slowest states in the nation at paying unemployment benefits in March, though the state's Department of Labor and Employment said it had returned to pre-pandemic processing speeds by the end of the month.

Colorado estimated it paid 39.1% of March first-time claims within three weeks, which the federal government considers on time. Alabama is the only other state that reported fewer claims paid on time at 38.9%, according to federal data.

"It’s just aggravating," said Chris Duke, who was laid off from her job of 41 years in early December and still has not received her benefits. She estimated the state owes her $11,000. "So yeah, I’m not going to turn my back and not going to go away if I’m entitled to it. If I’m not, tell me so."

In December, Colorado's 35.7% timely processing rate was the slowest in the nation. At the time, the Department of Labor and Employment said it expected to be "within normal time frames" by the end of March.

The director of the division of unemployment insurance said in a statement last week that the division had achieved its goal by getting its claim processing time "back to our pre-pandemic average of roughly 4 to 6 weeks" by the end of the month. During the height of the pandemic, it processed 95% of claims within three weeks, records showed.

"Our early estimate for April is currently at 67%" of claims processed within three weeks, said Philip Spesshardt, director of the Division of Unemployment Insurance.

"I don’t know what they need to do to reorganize their staff down there, but they definitely need to address these backlog issues," said Duke, who has now waited 19 weeks for her benefits.

"I’m OK," she said. "Luckily my monthly bills are fairly low, but not everybody is in that situation."

Duke has booked an appointment to speak to someone at the department's downtown Denver office three times since losing her job. She said she recognizes her claim might be complicated by a previous fraudulent claim attempted on her account and by the severance offered by her previous employer.

"I think things are kind of breaking loose now," Duke said. "I just got a call Friday one of the issues had been resolved."


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