DENVER (KDVR) — As the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) continues to roll out its new unemployment benefit portal in phases, the labor department said Thursday it could still be several weeks until claimants waiting on COVID-19 assistance (PUA and PUEC) can request benefits.
Claimants on regular unemployment have been able to file since Sunday.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the rollout of the new MyUI+ system,” said Joe Barela with CDLE. “We do think it will prove to be very beneficial to the state’s unemployment system and the customers that use it.”
As of Sunday, when the new system was deployed, the department has seen over 14,000 new claims filed and about 80,000 total requests for payment. While 500,000 Coloradans are currently on unemployment, 158,000 people have successfully logged into the new system.
“In just 72 hours the system has paid out $18 million in claims,” said Barela. “While we have had a few glitches since the launch, we have been able to correct them.”
To address the overwhelming number of claimants struggling to access the new system, CDLE added 400 employees to its third-party call center. While the department claims its average wait time to reach a representative is 30 minutes, many claimants are told they will need to request a call back from a regular call center agent. The third-party call center has received over 33,000 calls for help since Sunday.
Fraud attempts however, continue to be rampant in Colorado’s unemployment system. CDLE says it has successfully blocked over $7 billion dollars in fraudulent claims in its PUA system alone, but has paid $6 million in fraudulent claims, not successfully flagged.
Colorado will now join 13 other states using a software called ‘ID Me’ to virtually identify the person filing a claim. It will require the claimant to take additional steps beyond submitting personal information, including facial recognition techniques.
“This is a more robust system for people to prove who they are as they file claims,” said Barela. ‘ID Me’ should be installed within the next few weeks. All accounts currently on a hold will be required to use ‘ID Me’ to unlock the account, as well as all new claimants in the future. The department is currently working through over 30,000 cases of identity theft.
“It’s possible that someone reported to be a victim of fraud into the department and because of the backlog in those reports, it wasn’t immediately closed down,” said Cher Haavind with CLDE. “Within the next few days, we will implement automatic processes (ID Me) that ensure those claims are closed.”
The department will then turn its attention to those who got caught up in fraud holds, to prove their identity.
Nearly $77 million was paid out in total benefits to Coloradans just last week. In 2020, the department estimates that $6.9 billion in state and federal benefits were paid out to about 850,000 claimants. That’s equivalent to the same amount of state and federal benefits distributed in total, from 2009 to 2012.
CDLE wants to remind Coloradans that ‘Connect Colorado’ has over 80,000 open positions where employers are looking for qualified workers.
“Now might be the time to look for work, there are many opportunities where its safe,” said Barela. “You might have a skill set that can be transferred to another industry and go back to work where you are getting full wages.”