DENVER — Colorado Governor Jared Polis' office announced a new program offering unemployed Coloradans a financial incentive if they return to work full time.
Under the Colorado Jumpstart Incentive program, unemployed individuals are eligible to receive an incentive of up to $1,600 to support the transition into full-time work, the announcement said.
To be eligible for the incentive, individuals must have received at least one week of unemployment benefits of $25 or more between March 28, 2021, and May 16, 2021, and have verified their identities via ID.me.
The program aims to get people who are currently still unemployed back to work, but some people will not be eligible even if they are still collecting unemployment. The program was created through an executive order announced Wednesday by Gov. Jared Polis.
A full list of eligibility requirements is available here: ColoradoUI.gov
Eligible claimants who return to work full time in May will receive $1,600. Those who return to work full time in June will receive an incentive of $1,200. To receive the full incentive, workers must maintain full-time employment for at least eight weeks after finding a job.
The Governor's Office said the incentive payments are expected to be issued during July and August of 2021 and will be distributed in two installments. Claimants will become eligible for the first half of the incentive after approximately four weeks of full-time employment and will become eligible for the remaining half after approximately eight weeks.
Claimants currently receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits, workshare claimants, and out-of-state claimants are not eligible for the incentive program.
How and works and where the money is coming from
“In March 2021, Colorado’s unemployment rate remained unchanged from February at 6.4% and the labor market recovery has been slow. Job openings continue to outpace hiring throughout the State,” the order says. “I understand that starting a new job takes resources, like transportation, child care, and clothing, so the payments in this Executive Order will provide Coloradans with these resources to return to the workforce more quickly and assist with the statewide economic recovery from COVID-19.”
Gig workers who receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits, people on workshare programs, and people who have moved out of state but are still collecting Colorado unemployment will not be eligible to apply for the incentive.
If a person does not apply to those groups, there are other restrictions as well. To be eligible, a person must have received at least one week of at least $25 or more in unemployment benefits between March 28 and May 16 and must have already verified their identities through ID.me.
Polis said in a statement that he hopes the program can financially help people who have been struggling to find a new job.
“We know that getting back to work doesn’t mean all the financial challenges Coloradans are facing just disappear, and we want to ensure that as more people are returning to the workforce, we are setting them up for success,” he said.
According to a fact sheet from the department, the process will work as such: A Coloradan would get hired for a full-time job. They would log in to their MyUI+ account and answer yes to the question asking if they have returned to work full time.
If the person answers “yes” to that question, they will be asked if they want to participate in the program. Another “yes” answer would take the person to another screen, where they will have to provide information about their new job and wages.
The CDLE says after that, the first half of the incentive money would be paid approximately four weeks later, with the second half coming another four weeks after that if the person remains employed.
The CDLE’s website says it is working to implement the program within MyUI+ and that people should be able to start opting in on Sunday. It also says that if a person reopens their unemployment claim within eight weeks of opting in, they will forfeit any yet-unpaid incentive payments. People will not be able to appeal a disqualification.
The executive order says the money for the program will come from the Coronavirus Relief Fund reallocated from the state department of public health to the CDLE.
The initial allocation would be $500,000, according to the executive order, which would cover 312 people at the full $1,600 amount, though the order can be extended. The money used for the program cannot be billed against the CDLE’s Unemployment Insurance Fund or any U.S. Department of Labor grants, the order states.
Jessica Hudgins Smith, the spokesperson for the CDLE’s Division of Unemployment Insurance, said roughly 138,000 claimants could qualify for the program and said once the initial $500,000 is used up that “additional allocations can be made in the future to cover direct payments.”
Smith said that Polis’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting estimates the benefit costs could total $36 million to $57 million depending on how many people participate. She said the state intends to cover those costs by using the Coronavirus Relief Fund made available by increased reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for public health expenses.
“The Executive Order will be extended every 30 days after we have determined the number of claimants who have opted into the program, after which time there will be a funds transfer,” Smith said.
She also said Wednesday that Colorado will not be ending the federal extended unemployment benefits until the current expiration in September — differing from some states that have pledged to do so sooner in recent weeks.
The CDLE estimated last week that there were still 162,886 people receiving either regular unemployment, PUA or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits through continued claims the week of May 1. The state’s unemployment rate has remained mostly flat for the past few months at 6.4%. And the state says there are more than 100,000 current open jobs on the state job board.
“More than a year after this pandemic swept through Colorado, we know that many Coloradans are not completely back on their feet just yet. That’s why we are taking this important step to provide support to those who need it most as they transition back into the workforce,” said CDLE Executive Director Joe Barela. “This won’t just help Coloradans, it’s going to help businesses to have a productive workforce, ready to power our economy and comeback.”
Denver7's Blair Miller contributed to this report