COLORADO, USA — Workers who lose their jobs through mass layoffs normally get assistance from the state ahead of the layoffs.
With the number of businesses closing due to the state's stay-at-home order, the normal Worker Readjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) process isn't working as proactively as intended. It's a law that requires employers to provide employees with a 60-day notice of a mass layoff, with some exceptions.
"In the best-case scenario, we would deploy a team, they would meet with the workers and employer together, help them walk through this process," said Colorado Department of Labor and Employment spokeswoman Cher Haavind.
That was easier when strangers could meet in person, and when Colorado had record low unemployment, like the 2.5% unemployment rate from February 2020.
Now, the state has record-high unemployment filings.
"The week with the highest number of claims during the recession, we had 7,000. We had 60,000 last week alone," Haavind said.
The department doubled it's call center staff to handle the overload that is hard to keep up with.
"Why we staffed up, doubled our staff in the last few weeks, is we went from seeing about 1,000 calls a day to over 200,000 attempts to call earlier this week," Haavind said.
When an employer reports a mass layoff through WARN, the layoffs are recorded through a public database.
"It alerts our team internally, so we can engage the employer and their workers on a number of resources available," said Haavind. "If this is a permanent closure, we can help them with training and job search assistance."
Between March 17 and April 2, 60 businesses reported 6,040 layoffs. The state cannot reach out to all of those 6,040 individually, so most will likely have to navigate the jammed phone lines with other now-unemployed workers.
Among the mass layoffs in the last two-and-a-half weeks:
- The Broadmoor: 1,411 employees
- Great Wolf Lodge: 446 employees
- TSA Trans States Airlines: 329 employees
- Marriott Denver Tech Center: 196 employees
- Liberty Oilfield Services: 183 employees
- Root Down DIA: 121 employees
- Punch Bowl Social: 81 employees
Hundreds more have lost their jobs at various auto dealerships.
"Unfortunately, we're overwhelmed with the demand for outreach and assistance," said Haavind. "In an ideal world, yes, if your employer is listed on that spreadsheet, we hope by the time you are on the spreadsheet, we have already engaged you for our service. When we can partner with you to get to your workers, it saves that worker a whole time on the phone or potentially frustration around not really understanding the process."
Normally, before the layoffs hit, the state would educate the employers on the Work-Share Program. It's an alternative to laying off employees, by instead reducing their hours. That way, the employee still has a job and receives unemployment which is split between the employer and the state.
"I think in February, we maybe had 10 employers participating in the program, and now we have 300," Haavind said.
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