DENVER — Anyone filing for unemployment in Colorado must apply at specific times based on the first letter of their last name in an effort to ease the strain on the web-based system which has been overwhelmed by the large number of people applying for the assistance.

The Colorado Department of Labor on Monday initially asked that people who need to file an unemployment claim stagger the times they use the state's online system and contact the call center.

The request was due to the unprecedented number of claims that the state has seen over the past week, which overwhelmed the system, leaving many people unable to file a claim.

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On Monday morning alone, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) had 186,000 attempts to contact the call center, up from 9,000 a week ago, according to Joe Barela, executive director of CDLE.

"All of our systems are overloaded, ... and we know frustration is high," said Barela. "We are doing the best we can to navigate these uncertain times and want claimants to know their benefits will not be reduced due to any filing delays."

The new staggering system, based on the last name of the claimant, began Monday as voluntary but as of Tuesday afternoon became mandatory a spokesperson for CDLE said.

If your last name begins with a letter between A and M, file a claim on Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday, or after noon on Saturday.

If your last name begins with a letter between N and Z, file a claim on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, or before noon on Saturday.

CDLE also added 90 employees to the customer call center on Monday, and will add another 90 staff for the call center and document management over the next two weeks, according to a news release.

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The labor department offers more tips to filers:

  • While filing your claim, click the save and finish later button often, and click file a claim to return to the last page you saved. This will ensure you save the work you've put into your application.
  • File during non-peak hours, such as early mornings and evenings after 8 p.m., when fewer people are using the system.
  • Type up the information you plan to use to file your claim before you start, and then copy and paste it into the form. This includes information on your places of employment for the past 18 months and why you're no longer working there.
  • Once you're finished, click submit one time. You will receive a confirmation page and number for your claim.

The application to file a claim won't be available from 6-8 p.m. daily for maintenance.

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