If you needed any more sobering facts about the economic crisis, check this one: during the week ending April 11, more than 100,000 workers in Colorado applied for unemployment benefits. To put that in perspective, that’s more than the total number of applicants for all of 2019. As CBS Denver reports, the latest surge in applications puts the total number of people who’ve applied for benefits since work from home measures were introduced at over 200,000….and unfortunately, it’s unlikely to end there. If you’re one of the thousands of Colorado workers who’ve been hit by the crisis, unemployment benefits can make all the difference between sinking and swimming. Here, we take a look at what your unemployment entitlement may be, and how to go about filing a claim.
Qualifying for Benefits in Colorado
- Typically, benefit claimants must be able to prove:
- They are unemployed through no fault of their own.
- They are able, available, and actively seeking work.
Effective March 27, claimants who’ve lost their jobs or had their income reduced as a result of COVID-19 no longer have to fulfill the work-search requirement. Providing your reason for claiming unemployment falls into one of the below categories, you may still be eligible, regardless of whether or not you are either available or able to work.
- You are either sick with COVID-19 or are in quarantine because of exposure to COVID-19 (if the latter, you will need to provide a medical certificate confirming your exposure).
- You are a caregiver to someone who is sick with COVID-19 or who is in quarantine because of exposure to COVID-19.
- You are self-employed, a freelancer, or a contractor whose income has been adversely affected by COVID-19.
- You have been laid off, either temporarily without pay or permanently, because of COVID-19.
- You are working reduced hours because of COVID-19.
- You cannot travel to work because of COVID-19 related school closures and have no suitable alternative childcare arrangements.
- You cannot work because you have been ordered to shelter in place.
- You cannot get to work because of COVID-19 public transportation shut down.
In addition to evaluating your reason for being out of work, the Department of Labour and Employment will assess your earnings over a defined timeframe known as the “base period”. Your base period is defined as the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters. Normally, you need to have earned a minimum of $2,500 during the entire base period to qualify for benefits. If you haven’t, the department will review your income over an alternate base period to check your eligibility. Given the current situation, you may still be in line for partial benefits even if you haven’t met the minimum earnings threshold.
How to File for Unemployment in Colorado
Applications for unemployment benefits can be filed in one of two ways:
- By calling customer service on 303-318-9000 if you live in the Denver metro area and 1-888-550-2800 if you live in the rest of the state.
- Online at coloradoui.gov.
To lighten the load on the system, the state asks that new applicants log their claims according to a defined schedule. If your surname ends in the letters A through M, file your claim on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays or after midday on Saturdays. If your surname ends in the letters N through Z, file Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays or before midday on Saturdays.
As part of the application process, you will be asked to confirm certain information. This includes:
- Your Social Security Number.
- Your work history, to include employer name and address, first and last day worked, occupation, gross earnings, and reason for leaving.
- Your legal name, mailing address, contact phone number, and date of birth.
- Non-Citizens Alien registration and the expiration date of your work authorization card (if applicable).
- Driver’s License, State ID, or other accepted form of ID.
- Bank account information if you choose to be paid by direct deposit.
As soon as you file your initial claim, you’ll need to start requesting payment on a bi-weekly basis, even while a decision on your application is still pending. Your first claim for payment should be made on the Sunday immediately following the first two weeks of your initial claim. Payment requests should be made either online at MyUI or by phone (303-813-2800 (Denver-metro area) or 1-888-550-2800 (outside Denver-metro area). Whichever method you choose, you’ll need to provide the PIN issued by the department on receipt of your initial claim, so be sure to keep this safe. If your claim is successful, payment will be made either via a debit card from U.S. Bank or via direct deposit. As it can sometimes take the state up to 6 weeks to process applications and begin payments, it’s recommended you file your claim as soon as possible after becoming unemployed.
Unemployment Pay and Duration in Colorado
As the Denver Post reports, the average weekly benefits payment stands at around $400. Your actual entitlement will vary according to previous earnings, with benefits paid at approximately 55% of your average weekly wage during the past 12 months, up to a maximum of $561 per week and a minimum of $25.
To check how much you’re likely to get, visit coworkforce.com, enter your income information, and it’ll calculate your potential entitlement for you.
In addition to what the state allows, you’ll also be eligible to claim a flat $600 per week in supplementary benefits as part of the CARES act. If you’ve already filed a claim for unemployment, you don’t need to do anything else in order to qualify for the top-up. The department is in the process of reviewing all qualifying applicants and will issue separate payments, retroactive to 29 March, shortly. The additional payments can be claimed for up to 4 months, or until the program ends on July 31. Normally, the state allows you to claim benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks. However, further to the introduction of the CARES act, you can now claim up to 39 weeks in total until the end of July.