The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), Division of Unemployment Insurance, has implemented several new procedures and temporary policy changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and federal legislation implementing the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act).

Traditional Unemployment Benefits

CDLE is encouraging applicants to first apply and see if they qualify for traditional unemployment benefits before pursuing Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). The typical weekly benefit amount for traditional unemployment benefits will be about 55 percent of the qualifying applicant’s average wage up to a maximum of $618 per week. A benefit calculator is available on CDLE’s website.

Applicants receiving traditional unemployment benefits will also receive an additional $600 per week in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) under the CARES Act. These payments will be made for each week the applicant receives unemployment benefits for the period beginning March 29, 2020 and ending July 25, 2020, and will be paid retroactively. Applicants receiving traditional unemployment benefits will automatically receive the additional PUC payments for each eligible week for which they receive unemployment benefits.

CARES Act PUA

Starting the afternoon of April 20, CDLE began taking applications for PUA. Applications for PUA are made via a separate webpage application.

PUA benefits extend to include many individuals who are not covered by traditional unemployment insurance in Colorado and who are prevented from working due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes independent contractors, 1099 workers, self-employed individuals, those who perform work for app-based service providers like Uber and Lyft, other gig workers, and employees of religious organizations that do not typically pay for unemployment insurance. These workers will need to provide either a 2018 or 2019 tax return as part of their application to document their previous income levels.

Individuals who have exhausted their traditional unemployment benefits may also receive PUA benefits. PUA is available to pay up to an additional 13 weeks beyond the 26 weeks that are typically available (39 weeks total).

PUA benefits may also cover employees who remain sick with COVID-19, are under quarantine, or who have flu-like symptoms beyond the time that federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave or Family Medical Leave covers. PUA may also cover some employees who work for employers that are exempt from paying federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave or Family Medical Leave if the employees are unable to work due to COVID-19 reasons.

The amount of PUA benefits are based on previous reported income, with a minimum benefit of $223 up the state’s maximum of $618 per week. PUA benefits are available retroactively back to February 2, 2020 and run from the date of the employment loss due to COVID-19 factors. Applicants eligible to receive benefits will also receive an additional $600 per week in PUC benefits under the CARES Act for the period beginning March 29, 2020 and ending July 25, 2020

Employers that pay premiums based on employees’ wages will not have their accounts charged for claims that are a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers that only pay for benefits paid will be charged for 50 percent of benefits paid as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Workforce Reductions

  • Colorado’s Work-Share Program provides employers with an alternative to laying off employees by allowing employees to keep working with fewer hours and collect part of their regular unemployment benefits. To qualify, employers must reduce work hours between 10-40 percent, the reduction must affect at least two employees, or two employees in a certain unit, and the employer must have paid as much in unemployment insurance premiums.
  • Furloughed employees and certain employees who have received pay reductions may be eligible for full or partial unemployment benefits if their hours are eliminated or reduced to fewer than 32 hours a week and they are earning less than the weekly amount unemployment would pay.

Other Changes

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, CDLE is waiving the standard one-week waiting period requirement before paying unemployment benefits regardless of the reason for filing.
  • CDLE is also waiving the requirement to perform work-search activities but applicants should still register for work at connectingcolorado.com or with a local workforce center if the office is accepting in-person customers.
  • CDLE has now implemented a process by which applicants can request a pin online and receive it via e-mail.

For employers that cannot submit quarterly unemployment reports and premium payments on time because business operations are severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, or because employer representatives or their family members are sick with COVID-19, CDLE will consider late reports timely and waive any late fees or interest accrued.

Colorado’s Division of Unemployment Insurance posts regular updates, which can be found here.


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