State labor officials will soon be emailing thousands of Coloradans who had their federal unemployment benefits shut off on Dec. 26 as the state prepares to relaunch those programs. Officials have not made it clear when the first new payments might hit people’s accounts.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, designed for gig workers and the self-employed and others uniquely impacted by COVID-19 and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program that provided extended benefits to people who have exhausted other forms of support both ran out of funding late last month. That left an estimated 153,000 people in Colorado without income they had been counting on during the pandemic.
The programs were reauthorized by the second stimulus bill signed by President Donald Trump on Dec. 27. Since receiving federal guidance on how to implement them earlier this month, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has been racing to program its new unemployment system to reopen frozen claims and begin accepting new filings for the programs.
That process is about to begin, officials announced during a news call Friday.
“We will be rolling out in phases beginning late next week as previously announced,” Joe Barela, director of the Colorado labor department, said, noting that the unemployment division had projected the programs would be reactivated in late January or early February.
According to a plan outlined by CDLE deputy executive director Cher Haavind, the first step will be contacting people with existing claims that still have money available on their accounts and giving them information about how to sign up through the new system, MyUI+.
The first phase of the rollout should also open the door for the $300 per week in boosted unemployment payments, state officials said. Another component of the second congressional stimulus package, those boost payments will be paid out to any Coloradan eligible to receive at least $1 in state or federal unemployment payments for any week between Dec. 27 and March 13.
State officials have not given a date for when those payments will go out but when they do that will cover all prior weeks that were covered by the program. That means many people will receive large payments of back-owed benefits.
“No action is required for the (boost) benefits,” Barela said. “It will be automatically added to benefits payments issued.”
Once that first phase is up and running, the MyUI+ unemployment portal will be ready to start accepting new PUA and PEUC claims. The exact timeline for that second phase of the rollout isn’t clear yet.
The state is also running a pilot program for ID.me technology. The state’s new identity verification process is a key part of accepting new PUA and PEUC claims.
Earlier this week, 500 people whose claims had been flagged as potentially fraudulent were contacted and encouraged to go through ID.me verification. So far, 138 have completed the process, Haavind said. There are more than 1 million unemployment claims in the state on hold for potentially fraudulent activity, state officials say.
Updated Jan. 22, 2021, at 4:15 p.m. Because of an error by a reporter, an earlier version of this story provided an inaccurate projection of when new federal unemployment benefit payments might begin.
This content was originally published here.