DENVER (KDVR) — There are about 8,100 unemployment claims on hold with the state of Colorado as investigators work to determine which are legitimate and which are fraud.
It’s the first time the state has acknowledged how many people may be sitting in limbo.
Many of these cases may turn out to be fraud and will never be paid, but others are for people who have been waiting months for back benefits with no timeline from the state on resolving their cases.
“I’ve sent letters to the mayor, to the governor, asking for help. What else am I supposed to do?” said Brittany Melina, one of hundreds of people who have emailed the Problem Solvers begging for help with their unemployment benefits.
More than half a year in wait
Melina first filed back in November.
“It’s very devastating, because I have children that I need to take care of. If I could work, I would definitely work,” Melina said.
Melina had to leave her job to be home with her two sons. Her teenager has Down syndrome and isn’t yet eligible for the vaccine, so he can’t return to school. She can no longer afford daycare for her younger son, because they now live off her older son’s social security check — $786 a month.
Melina showed the Problem Solvers a letter from an appeals officer that says she is “a covered individual” under the CARES Act (for federal coronavirus relief), and yet like so many we’ve heard from, she’s been waiting for months.
“I call them every week. I schedule callbacks, and each person tells me a different thing,” Melina said.
Melina said she’s already been cleared by ID.me, the online verification system the state uses to prove people are who they say they are. But once Colorado confirms your identity, it still has to confirm eligibility — and that’s created a huge backlog of unresolved claims.
8,100 claims unresolved
For weeks, the state refused to say just how many claims have been left in limbo. But after the Problem Solvers filed a public records request, the Department of Labor and Employment finally provided a number: 8,100 claims.
The claims are divided into two buckets. The first is “integrity holds” on 4,310 claims from people who have cleared the ID.me verification system but still have fraudulent activity on the claim, either because the claimant is a scammer or their claim has been hijacked by a criminal through identity theft.
The second bucket includes the 3,790 claims from people who cleared ID.me but haven’t been paid because of a non-fraudulent eligibility issue — people like Melina, in limbo for a variety of reasons.
Contact legislators with issues
State Sen. Robert Rodriguez says constituents who aren’t getting answers from the state labor department should call their elected lawmakers for help.
“We have staff that has been navigating this that knows how to navigate the system and who to contact,” Rodriguez said.
Melina and others in her position continue to wait for months.
About a week after we interviewed Melina, she finally started getting some of her unemployment benefits. She said the state has paid her back about a third of the $13,000 she’s owed. She hopes to get the rest soon.
However, the Problem Solvers continue to get emails from people who insist they’re not scammers but have found their claim held up indefinitely.