DENVER, Colorado — Just as Colorado's unemployment payments are set to get issued starting Saturday for hundreds of thousands waiting for money, the state is already cautioning about the next possible delay.
And the acting head of the state's unemployment insurance program wants you to know it's not going to be the state's fault.
"My comfort level would have been that Congress had something done this week and then it was signed by the President on Friday. I would have a comfort level there that we could probably look at rolling something out to minimize or have no gap. That hasn't happened at this point in time. Members of Congress are off this week," said Acting Director Phil Spesshardt.
Coloradans are already experiencing a gap in unemployment payments.
Here's a quick timeline.
- The CARES Act benefits from March 2020 expired on Dec. 26.
- Congress approved an 11-week extension on Dec. 21, but it wasn't signed by President Trump until Dec. 27.
- The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) couldn't issue payments until it received the new rules from the U.S. Department of Labor. According to CDLE, the last update on new rules was received on Jan. 8.
- It took CDLE three weeks to program the state's new unemployment system to be able to issue any of those payments, but only through a phased-in process.
- Phase One was for claimants seeking regular unemployment and for those who still had a balance remaining in their unemployment when the benefits expired on Dec. 26.
- Phase Two, which opens up on Saturday, is for claimants who exhausted their benefits by Dec. 26 or have since exhausted their benefits.
"The real question is is what can be done best to avoid a gap for citizens who are suffering at this point in time?" said Spesshardt. "When Congress waits until a program ends to take any action, and then we have to await additional information from U.S. (Department of Labor) guidelines, that creates those gap weeks for individuals, where they continue to struggle, where they are very frustrated, where they can't pay their rent, they can't pay their mortgage and they fall behind on bills."
"I exhausted my money January 10," said unemployed Human Resources Manager Teresa Miller.
Miller was one of 289,000 claimants to receive an email from CDLE this week, letting them know how they can take steps to be ready for when "Phase Two" goes live, which we now know will be on Saturday.
- Step 1: Log into your MyUI+ account.
- Step 2: Request payment for available weeks within your account.
- Step 3: If the option exists, apply for regular UI benefits
"I'm a very lucky person because my family is supporting me. I don't have that cloud hanging over my head that says I'm going to lose everything, but I feel the sympathy for people who I know don't have that," said Miller.
She also seemed worried for what Congress might, or might not do, next. The benefits she's finally about to receive go away after March 13 with no new action.
"It seems like, just from someone unemployed waiting to see what's happening, that they muddle it with a whole bunch of other agendas, and that they don't see a sense of urgency," said Miller.
Ahead of the "Phase Two" rollout on Saturday, the MyUI+ system will be down starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday, and won't be active again until 3 a.m. on Saturday.
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