Gig workers can apply for unemployment payments beginning Monday

Eagle County's jobless claims higher than Pitkin, Garfield and Summit counties

Eagle County expects to go to the blue phase of its transition trail map on Monday, which would allow restaurants to open at reduced capacity.
Chris Dillmann |
Where to apply for your money
  • Beginning Monday, Colorado will take new COVID-19 unemployment claims through a new system:
  • The CARES Act provides an additional $600 of unemployment benefits per week, on top of a claimant’s weekly unemployment benefit.
  • Gig workers, self-employed and independent contracts are now eligible for unemployment.
  • Two Virtual Town Halls will be offered on Monday, April 20th: One at 9:15 a.m. in English and one at 11:30 a.m. in Spanish. Register for the Virtual Town Halls at

Like everywhere else in the country, unemployment claims in Eagle County have soared, with 1,709 claims made for the two-week period between April 4 and Friday, April 20. That’s up from just 11 claims made for the period between March 7 and March 20, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported Friday afternoon.

Eagle County averaged 29 unemployment claims per week during all of 2019, according to the state labor department’s data.

Eagle County’s 1,709 claims is higher than Garfield County’s 1,015 and Pitkin County’s 637 and Summit County’s 1,277.

Accommodation and food services took the hardest hit, shedding 21,124 jobs between March 20 and March 28. Retail lost the second-most jobs of any Colorado industry, 7,400.

Help for gig workers

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment announced Friday morning that two new payment plans will be available beginning Monday for workers who’ve been impacted by COVID-19.

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  1. The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, or FPUC, provides $600 per week to any individual eligible for any of the unemployment compensation programs. It’s retroactive to March 29 and runs through July 25.
  2. Gig workers are also eligible for unemployment benefits. Gig workers include independent contractors such as those who drive for ride-sharing services, self-employed workers and those who are out of work for reasons directly related to COVID-19, including caring for a child whose school is closed or someone who tested positive for COVID-19. That benefit is retroactive to February 2.

Unemployment benefits have been extended up to 39 weeks to those not ordinarily eligible for them.

It’s all part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Colorado among the first states ready

Because state officials don’t know how many gig workers Colorado has, or how many workers will call seeking their $600, officials won’t know what Monday’s volume will be. But it figures to be high, said Joe Barela, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, during a Friday morning press conference.

To deal with it, the state labor department added 80 agents to help with the anticipated call volume, Barela said.

CDLE officials were already rolling out an online application system. When COVID-19 came rolling through, they expanded that system to begin taking claims under the CARES Act.

That makes Colorado one of the first states to accept applications and pay benefits, Barela said Friday.

While the Colorado labor department has added 80 agents and more website access, you’ll need to be ready when you call by collecting your tax information for 2018 and 2019, said Jessica Valand, Workforce Colorado’s Northwest Colorado regional director. Valand’s territory includes Eagle County.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has processed 231,000 COVID-related claims so far. That demand will go up now that unemployment claims covers workers who have never been eligible before.

“Colorado’s unemployment insurance program — like all UI programs across the country — has been under unprecedented strain for the last month,” Barela said.

BC: Before COVID

Colorado’s unemployment insurance fund stood at $1.1 billion before COVID-19 claims started rolling through. It’s down to $950 million and has paid out $109 million in the past few weeks, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s Ryan Gedney said.

Employers will keep paying unemployment insurance, so that should shore it up for the foreseeable future, Gedney said. A federal program of interest-free loans should also help keep the system solvent.

During the Great Recession, Colorado borrowed $1.1 billion, and could do that again, Gedney said.

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