Unemployment claims on hold in Colorado for self-employed

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DENVER (KDVR) — Unemployment claims topped 46,000 in Colorado last week, according to new statistics released by the Colorado Department of Labor Thursday morning.

In the last three weeks, more than 127,000 residents have filed for unemployment benefits, which is more than all of 2019.

And none of those claims include the people who were formerly self-employed or worked in the gig economy.

“It’s been really tough because something I’ve built up in the least 20 years was going strong and I just had to turn it off for the last month,” said Craig Barton, who owns 5280 Singles, which organizes events for single people.

When the self-employed Littleton resident tried to log onto Colorado’s website for unemployment benefits, it read, “Please check back with this page for the latest information.”

That’s because traditionally, the self-employed and workers in the gig economy don’t qualify for benefits because they don’t pay into the state’s unemployment insurance pool.

But Congress has expanded access to everyone with its relief bill, which means states like Colorado have to reprogram their systems — something that is expected to take another week or two.

“We know they’re frustrated,” said Cher Haavind, communications director for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, “We are working as hard as we can. We understand the importance of getting these benefits to this new group of workers.”

Haavind said the state has doubled its call center staff and changed processes to get benefits to applicants as soon as possible.

“In a normal unemployment situation, it would be four to six weeks and we have really worked on readjusting our systems to reduce that to within two weeks,” said Haavind.

She added applicants who ask for direct deposit will receive their benefits faster than those who request debit cards. She also said people may face fewer glitches if they can use Google Chrome as their web browser.

Benefits will be back-dated so people who aren’t able to apply for unemployment insurance for another week or two won’t miss out on any benefits they are entitled to.

“I need to be able to put the claim in and get the spigot turned on to start having a check for a month or two or three till I can actually go about to work,” said Barber.

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