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More than $19 million lost to fraud, Colorado labor department says

CDLE said Friday $19.37 million has been lost to fraud. That's up from the prior number of about $6.5 million.

DENVER — The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) said Friday that $19.37 million has been lost to fraudulent claims and they expect that number to increase as fraud investigations continue. Previously, CDLE said they'd lost about $6.5 million.

"We are constantly updating our fraud triggers and implementing new strategies, every day, to stop criminals from collecting money," said Phil Spesshardt with CDLE during a Friday morning briefing.

One way that they're cracking down on fraud is through the ID.me verification process which requires an uploaded photo of a government-issued ID, a selfie and a social security number.

Even if the information is accurate, it will not always guarantee an immediate verification.

"If we did not have people going through ID.me now, as difficult as it is for some people, and did absolutely nothing, we would have paid out $37 billion in fraudulent payments, be looking around right now, and answering questions from all of you as to why did we pay out $37 billion in fraudulent payments," Spesshardt said. 

Between 14 and 16% of people who go through the ID.me process are having issues, according to Spesshardt.

"Those that are caught up in these fraud holds, we know they are in desperate need of these benefits, and every day as Phil said we're working with this vendor to run network analytics to free up those claims that unfortunately are caught in this situation and will continue to improve our systems," said Cher Haavind, with CDLE.

Spesshardt noted that some of the people who have reached out to news organizations, such as 9NEWS, with issues related to ID.me are actually guilty of fraud themselves.

"We will tell you, from individuals that you have all passed on to us to review, or have been contained within those individuals that each of you pass on to us through investigations fraudsters are trying to utilize you to get through us," he said.

He did admit though that the "vast majority" of people reaching out are people experiencing "serious problems" which are preventing them from getting legitimate claims processed.

RELATED: ID.me: Colorado unemployment verification system doesn't work for everyone

CDLE estimated 8,927 initial unemployment insurance (UI) claims were filed the week ending April 10, and $12.2 Million in UI benefits were paid out.

There were also 2,132 initial federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims filed the same week.

For the week ending April 3, a total of 218,508 continued claims were filed. That includes 69,981 from UI, 63,248 from PUA and 85,279 from the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program.

An estimated 181,213 people filed for the continued claims the week ending April 3, according to CDLE.

CDLE said the recent implementation of the ID.me verification requirement is responsible for the continued decline in continued claims over recent weeks.

Since mid-March of 2020, an estimated 909,611 total UI claims have been filed, and a total of 1,175,514 claims have been filed when including the PUA program.

Unemployment benefits distributed in Colorado between March 29, 2020 and April 10, 2021

  • Regular UI: $2.88 billion
  • PUA (gig workers/self-employed): $1.30 billion
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation ($300/weekly UI benefits to eligible claimants): $3.39 billion
  • PEUC (extends unemployment benefits an additional 11 weeks, CAA): $769.8 million
  • State Extended Benefits (extends unemployment benefits an additional 13 weeks): $31.9 million
  • Lost Wages Assistance ($300/weekly UI benefits to eligible claimants, fall 2020): $389.2 million
  • Total: $8.77 billion

RELATED: US jobless claims plunge to 576,000, lowest since COVID-19 pandemic

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits tumbled last week to 576,000, a post-COVID low and a hopeful sign that layoffs are easing as the economy recovers from the pandemic recession.

The U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday that applications plummeted by 193,000 from a revised 769,000 a week earlier. Jobless claims are now down sharply from a peak of 900,000 in early January.

For the week ending March 27, 16.9 million people were continuing to collect jobless benefits, down from 18.2 million in the previous week. Those figures make clear that even as the economy has strengthened in recent weeks, millions are facing a loss of a job or income and have been struggling to pay bills or rent.

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