10,000 Coloradans file for unemployment in one day

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DENVER, (KDVR) — After 14 years at the Blake Street Tavern, General Manager Shelley Armand is gearing up for something new: unemployment. 

The bar and grill near downtown laid off 90 of it’s roughly 100 workers after being ordered to close their dining room to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

“We’re down to a skeleton crew with takeout and delivery, and just hoping for the best,” she says. “In the next few days, I’ll probably be done with my employment here.”

Armand is preparing to file for unemployment, something a record 10,000 Coloradans did Wednesday. 

It follows 6,800 requests Tuesday. 

“Given the extreme pressure on the system, I think we’re pleased overall,” said Cher Haavind with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. “However, there’s certainly some work to be done in expanding capacity and ability.”

Haavind says the Department of Labor and Employment has roughly 500 employees working unemployment claims. Many are working remotely. 

“We would like folks to do it online if you can,” she said. “Otherwise, you’re looking at some long wait times.”

At times Wednesday, the website was once again down for some people. 

“I spent 45 minutes, and then the website crashed,” said one tavern employee. “I went through the same process, literally got one window past where I had gotten the last time, and it crashed again.”

That worker, who asked not to be named, says she was finally able to submit her claim around 3 a.m. Tuesday. 

“It’s very difficult,” she said. “So many of us who have never even ventured toward unemployment, we have no idea how to even apply. So this is all uncharted territory.” 

Haavind says it’s unclear how long it will take people to get those unemployment benefits, which typically average about $400/week. 

She says there are no concerns the state will lack the funds to provide benefits, despite the high volume. 

“We have never failed to provide benefits, even during the depths of the Great Recession,” she said.

Haavind is expecting those numbers to continue for the foreseeable future. She estimates more than 200,000 Coloradans have lost work due to COVID-19 closures.

“We’ll continue to see that level at least sustain, if not grow from there,” she said. “So I would expect several thousand to 10,000 a day.” 

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