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Colorado says no gap in federal unemployment benefits expected after Biden signs stimulus bill

USDOL allows CDLE to move forward before guidance
biden signs 1.9t stimulus
Posted at 2:51 PM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-11 16:51:58-05

DENVER – Most Coloradans who are currently receiving federal unemployment benefits will not see a gap this month after President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion stimulus package Thursday which extends the programs currently in place, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said.

CDLE officials said in a call with reporters Thursday that the department had asked for and received approval from the U.S. Department of Labor to deploy the extended federal unemployment benefits contained within the American Rescue Plan, which Biden signed Thursday, before the USDOL sends official guidance on the extensions.

The main reason why the CDLE was able to do so, the officials said, was because the House and Senate agreed to make few changes to the programs implemented in the Continued Assistance Act, which ran from Dec. 27 through this Saturday.

“Congress listened to people and kept things simple,” said Phil Spesshardt, the acting unemployment division director for the CDLE.

The department said with the agreement from the USDOL, the CDLE only had to wait for President Biden to sign the bill before it could start implementing the continued extended benefits.

“We are grateful that Congress took the necessary steps before the current programs expire, saving hundreds of thousands of Coloradans the financial hardship and gap in payments we saw earlier this year due to a delay in federal action,” CDLE Executive Director Joe Barela said in a statement.

The legislation signed into law by Biden on Thursday includes extensions for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs through Sept. 6.

It also extends the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, which in the latest measure includes $300 a week for people receiving any type of unemployment benefits, through Sept. 6 as well.

As such, CDLE officials said, most people who are receiving benefits through regular, PUA or PEUC claims will continue to see those benefits without any gap, which the department said previously could occur before they knew the USDOL would allow them to continue paying benefits without new guidance.

But there will be a group of people – mainly people who started receiving PUA backdated to early February 2020 last year, but also a small group still waiting on the December package who mainly have out-of-state wages or were part of workshare programs – who will still have to wait for the reprogramming, said Spesshardt. But those people should be able to reopen their claims sometime next week, he added.

Barela said the department had emailed all claimants currently receiving benefits about the news. The department plans to make the MyUI+ site go dark at 7 p.m. Friday through 3 a.m. Saturday to make necessary changes to the system, but people should be able to log on Saturday and continue with their normal filling processes.

The CDLE officials welcomed the news that they would be able to avoid the gap thousands of Coloradans saw in January and into February for some people, who had to wait for weeks after the Continued Assistance Act was signed for the state to receive guidance from the USDOL to reprogram the system, and for the CDLE to upgrade to MyUI+.

“We know with the expiration of the CARES Act, that caused a lot of hardship in Colorado and we wanted to avoid that this time around,” Barela said.

Officials said that around 58,000 people had gone through the process to try to remove suspected fraud holds on their claims but that about 4,000 of those still required more investigation before they could be lifted.

The department reported nearly 12,000 regular initial claims were filed last week, along with about 1,450 PUA claims. CDLE Senior Economist Ryan Gedney said the state has now paid out about $1 billion in benefits since the launch of Phase 1 of the Continued Assistance Act rollout on Jan. 31.