After eight weeks of waiting, nearly 300,000 Coloradans can reopen their unemployment accounts Saturday |

After eight weeks of waiting, nearly 300,000 Coloradans can reopen their unemployment accounts Saturday

The delay was blamed on federal lawmakers passing a new coronavirus relief measure one day after CARES Act aid expired. But more delays are expected for the next round of assistance if Congress doesn’t pass a new package soon.

Thousands of out-of-work Coloradans who’ve been waiting for federal benefits to restart can reopen their unemployment accounts on Saturday — about eight weeks after the last federal relief plan was approved by lawmakers.

Officials from the Colorado Department of Employment and Labor said the reopening comes two days sooner than expected. And they’ve already notified 289,000 people who are eligible for this so-called Phase 2 of benefits. An earlier phase allowed people who had benefits left from last year’s CARES Act to get paid earlier this month.

“We understand and we know that the gap in the benefits has been a hardship on Coloradans, but we are committed to making sure that we’re doing everything possible (to make sure) our systems are in compliance with rules and regulations that are required to administer these benefits to eligible unemployment claimants at this time,” Joe Barela, the Department of Labor’s executive director, said during a news conference Thursday.

The delays have been especially difficult and confusing for Coloradans who lost their jobs early on, when the first pandemic business restrictions rolled out in mid-March as part of public health and safety efforts. Many of those folks exhausted their benefits well before Dec. 26, when the CARES Act ended.

Mike Krumlauf, an Englewood resident who worked in the film and audio/video industry, was among thousands who lost benefits in November, when the State Extended Benefits program abruptly ended. He was told he could apply for the gig-worker program, called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA. But he was stuck in a confusing process of verifying his identity and he gave up. He’s had to sell some of his equipment to cover his January and February rent.

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Read more from Tamara Chuang, The Colorado Sun.


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