Colorado’s next round of pandemic unemployment benefits coming Feb. 22

People who either exhausted their pandemic unemployment benefits by late last year or haven’t yet filed a claim will be able to do so starting Feb. 22, the state announced Sunday.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said in a news release that it knows people have been “anxiously waiting” to be able to apply Phase 2 of the reauthorized Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs, which combined serve gig workers, self-employed people and others uniquely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The phased-in rollout of the program has been frustrating for many, however, our priority has been to get benefits in the hands of the most eligible claimants we could feasibly reach at one time,” CDLE Executive Director Joe Barela said in the release. “We may have some kinks to workout, but our new, modernized cloud-based system will allow for much speedier implementation of future pandemic assistance legislation that we expect to come from the new (presidential) administration.”

Just a few days earlier, Barela said it could be weeks before Phase 2 was ready.

After the two federal programs were reauthorized, state officials waited on federal guidance and then raced in late January to launch the programs on Colorado’s new online unemployment system. On Feb. 1, the first day about 230,000 Coloradans were able to reopen their unemployment claims, there were complaints of busy signals and long waits.

The state said Sunday since Feb. 1, it has paid out more than $166 million in benefits to about 104,000 people under Phase 1 — meant for those who had existing balances on the PUA and PEUC programs in late December.

Boosted $300-per-week unemployment payments, which were part of the second congressional stimulus package, 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.

As of the end of 2020, Colorado had 269,200 people who were unemployed and actively looking for a job. It also had the nation’s fourth-highest unemployment rate, a contrast to pre-pandemic times, when Colorado had the fifth-lowest unemployment rate at 2.5%.

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