DENVER — More money is coming soon for hundreds of thousands of Coloradans who are still out of work.
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) said the Lost Wages Assistance Program, an extra $300 a week in federal assistance, is available as early as this weekend.
In order to qualify, COVID-19-related disruptions must be the claimant’s reason for unemployment and they must already be eligible for at least $100 per week of unemployment.
CDLE previously said only 6% of claimants would not meet those requirements.
But many ran into problems on Tuesday trying to get certified for the new program.
“Yesterday I received an email from CDLE instructing me to certify that being laid off was related to [the] pandemic, which it was. So I went ahead to [the] website, followed instructions, and it became clear pretty quickly that that website wasn’t working properly,” said Joe Grippa, who said he was laid off from his job in July.
“The website did instruct me that I could have someone call me back if I requested that, which I did. Unfortunately it said the first available time was in November, which is well after the deadline that they indicate this needs to be done.”
Grippa said the email he received indicated the deadline to certify was Oct. 3, 2020.
In social media posts on Tuesday, CDLE said “high demand” created tech issues with the program certifications.
Tuesday evening, CDLE spokeswoman Cher Haavind said the system was "up" and the department was monitoring activity. She advised anyone who was unable to complete certification to exercise patience.
“Please wait to attempt to recertify until we email all claimants. We will send out an email when the system is stable. No one will miss out on benefits,” Haavind wrote in an email.
Before he was laid off, Grippa said he worked as a senior manager in an IT department. He is understanding of tech issues, to a point.
“I can relate to IT being challenging at times, in fact, I used to joke that was my job security, right?” he joked. “So I get that, but it seems to me that the state should have been able to anticipate how many folks would be requesting this assistance just based on the number of people who are already claiming federal unemployment.”
CDLE estimates between 325,000-350,000 Coloradans are eligible for the Lost Wages Assistance Program (LWA) benefits. Haavind said payments are expected to start Friday or Saturday.
Eligible claimants can receive $300 per week, for up to six weeks. This benefit is retroactive, for claims dating back to the week of July 26.
CDLE said payments will come in two lump sums: one paid later this week, and the second payment starting Sept. 25.
The LWA program was created by President Trump’s administration after the previous, $600 per week federal pandemic benefit ended this summer. LWA benefits will last up to six weeks, with funding from FEMA.
CDLE said there is about $460 million available for Coloradans right now. The state is still waiting on FEMA funding for the sixth week.
9NEWS Legal Expert, Whitney Traylor, said jams on the unemployment website can be explained by numerous challenges with the system during a pandemic.
“I think this is the perfect storm, there’s just a series of situations that happened,” he explained, listing some of them:
“One, the federal government is implementing all these new programs and providing unemployment where they hadn’t before. So all the states are having to figure out how to pass this along, how to streamline. That’s a huge learning curve. Then there was substantial fraud across the country where people where submitting fraudulent claims, and [governments] had to enact additional technology. Then of course the numbers -- these are unprecedented numbers [of claims] across the board.”
Grippa is patiently waiting to complete his certification. And he’s staying busy hunting for a new job.
“My new full-time job is looking for another full-time job,” he said.
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