Colorado labor department plans to start paying some federal unemployment benefits again next week

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 with the first payments possibly going out next week.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, designed for gig workers and the self-employed, 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, leaving 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 will begin next week, officials announced during a news call Friday.

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. Haavind is hopeful those people will be able to log in and request payments by the end of the week.

The first phase of the rollout should also open the door for the $300 per week in boosted unemployment payments, state officials said, another portion of the second congressional stimulus package available to any Coloradan who is eligible to receive at least $1 in state or federal unemployment payments in a given week.

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 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 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.

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