By executive order on Friday, Gov. Jared Polis allocated $1 million to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment for the purpose of handling the deluge of unemployment insurance claims, which numbered approximately 25,000 in the past week alone.
The order also established a 10-day timeline “to the extent practicable” for applicants to be awarded unemployment insurance benefits after the department receives an application. Normally, processing time takes four to six weeks, and during the 2008 recession, backlogs stretched 12-13 weeks.
During the pandemic, Colorado will suspend the requirement that a recipient be actively looking for work. The state will also draw benefits from the insurance fund rather than charge employer-specific accounts. Finally, the department will prioritize issuing benefits over doing a comprehensive investigation of the claim if it appears that the job loss occurred due to COVID-19.
Cher Roybal Haavind, the CDLE’s deputy executive director, said that it is possible an individual may have to give back overpayments that they receive as a result of the expediting. Unemployment insurance replaces approximately 55% of wages earned.
The money comes from the disaster emergency fund, from which the governor has the authority to transfer money during times of crisis. The department this week will begin hiring for 300 open positions, consisting of 150 call takers to reduce claims intake wait times and 150 document managers.
CDLE is also requesting that claimants adhere to a schedule based on their last name to deal with the large number of claims. People whose last names begin with A through M should file on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday after 12 noon. Everyone else should file on Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday before 12 noon.
Separately, Polis' order also directed localities to halt evictions, unless they are necessary to preserve public health and safety, and to suspend disconnection of utilities due to nonpayment.