COLORADO, USA — Officials with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) said that federal unemployment benefits will not resume until mid- to late-January at the earliest.
Programs created under the federal CARES Act passed by Congress in June that extended federal unemployment benefits are set to expire on Dec. 26.
> Video above: Full CDLE monthly unemployment update on Dec. 18.
CDLE said that roughly 280,000 Coloradans who are eligible to receive benefits are set to lose access to benefits, even if a claimant still has remaining benefit payments. That group largely includes gig workers, along with self-employed and independent contractors.
Mariah Kennemer said she and her partner are among the Coloradans expected to lose federal unemployment benefits next week.
"It is stressful,” she said. “We're both very skilled in our industry and we don't have the opportunity to do what we do with live events and concerts not happening."
Prior to the pandemic, Kennemer worked in the live entertainment industry and toured with bands like Coldplay and Fleetwood Mac.
Kennemer said after three weeks of struggling to get ahold of someone at the state labor department, she was recently able to get her benefits reinstated, just in time to lose them next week.
"I am very concerned,” she said. “I am also very smart with money. I've planned for the worse, but people shouldn't have to do that."
The resumption of payouts depends on the passing of new pandemic benefits by Congress.
However, even if Congress passes new legislation by the end of next week, CDLE said the U.S. Department of Labor must first issue guidance before state labor departments can begin programming their systems.
If new benefits are passed by Christmas, CDLE said the U.S. Labor Department will likely send out guidance early- to mid-January.
Once the guidance is issued, CDLE said it will take a few weeks to set up their systems.
CDLE said that benefits payments will likely be backdated to Dec. 22, depending on the final legislation.
CDLE also said that a upgrade to a new operating system, originally scheduled for April, will begin soon.
The upgrade requires moving information from the old system into the new system, including roughly 600,000 claims.
CDLE said that there will be some "dark days," which will be announced later, as the system is upgraded.
CDLE also provided their last update for 2020 and discussed the numbers for the month of November.
Colorado's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged in November at 6.4%. The national unemployment rate declined 2/10 of a percentage point from October, to 6.7%.
The state's counties with the highest unemployment rates in November were:
- San Miguel, 11.2%
- Pitkin, 10.2%
- Huerfano, 8.7%
- Pueblo, 8.3%
- Eagle, 7.8%
Since the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier this year, there has been an unprecedented number of unemployment claims often related to public health orders put in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Claims hit their lowest point in September since the pandemic began, but have climbed since then. The most recent climb 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.
Congress is still working on a second coronavirus relief package. Without a deal, temporary federal unemployment benefits are set to expire at the end of the year with the last payable week ending Dec. 26.
Even if action is taken, state labor officials said last week there would likely be a gap in benefits while the system is updated.
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