Coloradans still have questions about filing for COVID-19 unemployment. We have some answers.

Six weeks into the unprecedented wave of unemployment applications, the process can still be confusing for those looking to file.

A boarded-up bar in Denver's LoDo neighborhood on March 23, 2020. Gov. Jared Polis ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to close for at least 30 days on March 16 in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. President Trump, eager to boost the economy, is now pushing for a quicker wind-down of such policies. (Photo by Susan Greene)
A boarded-up bar in Denver's LoDo neighborhood on March 23, 2020. More than 358,000 Coloradans have filed for unemployment since mid-March. (Photo by Susan Greene)

More than 358,000 Coloradans have filed for unemployment over the past six weeks, in an unprecedented wave that reflects the nationwide job-loss and economic devastation of COVID-19. 

For comparison, in all of 2019, a little over 102,000 Coloradans filed for unemployment. 

Colorado’s unemployment system wasn’t designed to handle ten thousand applications a day, forcing the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) to upgrade its systems and hire dozens of new workers. 

Even with the upgrades, application and payment issues continue to frustrate applicants. 

Independent contractors, gig-workers and the self-employed — ineligible for benefits before the pandemic — now qualify under provisions from the first coronavirus stimulus bill. These workers must use a separate application process. And the two separate systems have proven to be confusing.

CDLE has created a separate call center for pandemic-related questions and has held four virtual town halls so far — two in English and two in Spanish — to answer questions on unemployment. 

We’ve compiled some of the questions from the town hall in English on May 4 and added a few additional questions and answers that may help unemployed Coloradans negotiate the bureaucratic maze. 

How do I know if I qualify for unemployment?

In normal times, if you were laid-off or lost a certain number of hours through no fault of your own, you could qualify for up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. During COVID-19, if you lost work or hours due to the pandemic, you are eligible for that 26, plus another 13  — a total of 39 weeks of unemployment. Coloradans who have been forced to stay home to care for children or a vulnerable family member also qualify. You can file for unemployment here

In addition, if you are self-employed, an independent contractor or a gig-worker who has lost income because of the pandemic, you qualify for benefits under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which has a separate system. You should use this link

What documents do I need to have to file for unemployment?

You should have your 2018 and 2019 tax forms. CDLE might ask for additional identifying documents such as a birth certificate or driver’s license. You will need to report any earnings you still receive to calculate your benefits.

As long as you are legally permitted to work in the U.S. — citizens, legal permanent residents and visa holders — you can receive benefits. 

How can I ensure my claim is processed quickly?

CDLE asks that you submit to an Experian check to verify identity. The check won’t affect your credit. Saying no to the identity check will delay your claim, state officials say. You should also provide CDLE with an email and respond to emails that require a response. Make sure to check your spam folder for CDLE emails. 

How do I know if my application is complete? 

You will receive a confirmation code at the end of your application. The next day you will be able to log in to CDLE’s website and see that your claim is active. 

When and how can I get my benefits after I’m approved? 

For regular unemployment you should receive a unique PIN — a personal number used to request payments  — within three to four business days after your application is approved. If you don’t receive a PIN in that time, you should contact CDLE. You can use that PIN to request benefit payments twice a month through CDLE’s website or by telephone. Once you have requested a payment, you should receive it within two to three business days, according to officials.

Unlike regular unemployment, PUA claimants will not get a PIN and must request payments weekly through the PUA website here. The department will let you know when you can request payments and you can set up direct deposit with your bank or receive payments on a debit card issued by CDLE.

For both categories of unemployment, recipients need to report any income received since the previous payment and certify that availability to work. 

More information and the steps to request a payment can be found here.

How much can I expect to receive?

CDLE calculates your income for the past 18 months and grants between 50-60% of your normal earnings in benefits. Before the pandemic, the maximum weekly benefit was $618. Now, the first federal stimulus bill now adds an additional $600 a week until July 31. So, the maximum benefit now is $1,218 a week before taxes. 

The lowest threshold is $25 a week, but for PUA benefits for independent contractors, federal law requires weekly payments of at least $223. 

Here is a benefit estimator that allows you to plug in your earnings from the past 18 months and calculates your benefits before the extra $600 a week is added on. 

How do I file if I’m a gig-worker or independent contractor who also has a regular job?

If you earned more than $2,500 from a regular payroll job in the past 18 months, you must file for regular unemployment before you can file for PUA benefits. If you are approved for regular unemployment, you must then use up those benefits before you can file as an independent contractor.

Do I need to request the extra $600 per week in federal funds?

No. CDLE will add the federal money to your regular benefit payments automatically and payments can be backdated to March 29. If you want those backdated payments, you will need to call CDLE to request them. 

What should I do if I’ve already exhausted my unemployment benefits?

If you used up your 26 weeks of benefits (see answer to the first question) before the coronavirus stimulus bill was signed into law on March 27, you can now apply for an additional 13 weeks of benefits through the PUA system

My employer wants me to return to work, but I don’t feel safe. Can I still receive unemployment?

It depends. You could still receive unemployment benefits and don’t need to immediately return to work, especially if you are a member of a vulnerable group to COVID-19 like the immuno-compromised or elderly. You will need to inform CDLE that you were requested to return to work when you next request benefits. CDLE will investigate the conditions of your job on a case-by-case basis to ensure your employer is following the guidelines of Gov. Jared Polis’s safer-at-home order or your county’s orders, which may be stricter than the statewide guidelines. 

The department will consider whether your employer has protocols in place for social distancing, for wearing masks and for generally operating safely. 

CDLE will also take into account whether you live with a vulnerable person. For vulnerable Coloradans or members of their households, there may be no condition under which you can safely return to work. 

After investigation, CDLE will let you know if you can still collect benefits. 

If you have any additional questions about unemployment that weren’t answered, please comment or email forest@coloradoindependent.com.

Editor’s note: Additional clarification was added to this story on the process for those feeling unsafe to return to work.

28 COMMENTS

    • I filed for pua and it says that my money that I got back pay for would be there 5/25 in my account and isn’t what should I do?

  1. Ty but I am so confused, as I signed up for pua on the coloradoui.gov & it looks as the its active & even showed that my benefits & back pay has been paid to a “debit card”???? Then I hv no further knowledge how to obtain these benefits sir. Also when I sign into My UI from a previous exuasted claim it shows no activity or reference to the pua on the above website??? Please help, BTW I still hv my old unemployment card, & its is not expired kindle
    Lafonna

    • Hi Lafonna, it sounds like you opted to receive your benefits on a debit card issued by the department of labor on your application. If the benefits have not been added to your old unemployment card, I believe a new debit card should be arriving to you by mail. To track your activity and benefits, you will need to login through the PUA system, not MyUI. Here’s the link for that: https://pua.clouduim.cdle.state.co.us/Claimant/Core/Login.ASPX. If it’s been more than a week after you requested benefits and you haven’t received a debit card in the mail, you might have to contact the department of labor. I’ll send you an email on how to do that.

  2. I applied 4/21 for the self employed PUA benefits , I have an account online that states active and I certified for the weeks I was unemployed due to Covid 19 order.
    I uploaded all required documents. I recieved a PUA determination letter stating I was eligible but had 1 outstanding” issue ” ..that I refused work , which I did not.
    I had a “processed” status on payments, then it was changed to rejected , following an email from cdle with apologies for an erroneous rejection error, instructed me to look for a debit card in the mail and to check my card when I received it.
    I recieved my card today , 0 balance . I have called many times to inquire why my PUA determination refusal , they Cannot even find me in thier system…but I have all the email correspondence and account is active. They have promised to have the ones who actually process these to contact me..3 times… I hope someone in supervision contacts me because the others cant even find my information.

    • Hi Tracy, I’m going to pass along your issue to someone in the department of labor and hopefully they can help you out.

  3. Question (since I can’t get through to the state. I think I accidentally filed for regular unemployment. I have tried calling the state, but they just say there are too busy and hang up. If I leave it how it is,, will I still get the extra $600?

    • Hi Todd, can you login to MyUI? You should be able to see the status of your application in MyUI. If you accidentally filed for regular unemployment and you don’t qualify for it, your application will be referred automatically to the PUA system. You just have to wait for the department of labor to review your application.

  4. Hi Forest!

    I recently discovered that I put incorrect contact information on my application. The website says my most recent employer is “Pending review,” but it has now been 7 weeks since I filed for unemployment, and that status remains the same. I feel like I haven’t been approved because they don’t have the right info to verify with that employer that I was in fact furloughed.

    Is there any way to write to them or fix the info I originally put on the application?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Amanda, that might be the issue. You are going to have to contact CDLE. Have you tried the call center? Here’s the number: 303-318-9000. It does take a while to reach someone and if you get frustrated, I’ll send you a contact in the department that might be able to help.

  5. I’ve called dozens of times for weeks to no avail. I keep thinking they should’ve reached out to me by now to let me know they’re unable to verify my employment, but nothing has happened and I can’t get through to figure out what to do.

    Any help would be very much appreciated!

    Thank you!

  6. It says they need a copy of social security card and driver’s license but I don’t know where or how to upload them.

  7. Hey Forest,
    I’m writing this on behalf of a few people, including me. We lost our jobs in March at a ski resort and applied for regular UI which was approved and we were paid (direct deposit, access to info via MyUI online) until 5 weeks ago. Since then we have all requested payment every 2 weeks and online our accounts show that we are within the time frame for eligibility that runs until March 2021 and we all have balance of over $3000 in our account. We have not been told why the payments have stopped and our accounts all state $0.00 paid because “benefits exhausted”. We’ve literally called the CS number dozens of times but cannot get through to a human. We understand that our regular UI should roll over to PUA automatically but that has not happened in 5 weeks. I did call the PUA CS line and was guided through the application for PUA but the system rejects it as there is still an active regular UI claim open for each of our social security numbers. I also called the Appeals CS number and they also said we needed to be patient and contact the regular UI number. I also wrote a message to congressman Tipton – receiving a nice reply but no direct help with the issue. We all are not able to get new jobs yet as most things are still closed down where we live. Do you have any advice on how to find out why our regular UI payments stopped and how to transfer to PUA? Thanks and regards Vince

  8. Hi. I didn’t receive my pin for weeks and my claim status says ‘not active’, I reopened the claim but it still says ‘not active’. Do you know anything of what I should do? Thanks!!!

  9. Hi i filed my claim on may 17 2020 and still have not receive my my pay on my dept card over 5 working days can you help under stand it said on my ui account that it payed out?

  10. I had just started my regular unemployment benefits at the end of December 2019 before the pandemic broke out. Ive worked in the restaurant industry for 20 years. Anyway, my regular benefits run out on my birthday in 2 weeks. I know the gov extended an extra 13 weeks on top of the 26 weeks. That’s not the PUA benefits. There is no information as to when CDle will or have the sytem in place when my benefits run out. No one has any information. I shouldnt have to file for PUA when there is already a 13 weeks extended to regular benefits.

    I just need some help, direction, whatever. Anything would be appreciated. Calling cdle is impossible. I just want to know if i will be able to transition as they previously stated in other articles in April.

    Thanks for any and all help anyone can send my way

  11. I qualified for reduced hours during covid as part time employee. If I made more than the allotted gross pay for one week, do I still enter hours worked ? Then request payment? I’m afraid of being accused of fraud. Will the system just automatically reject that period but leave me active so I can submit for the subsequent weeks when I am eligible ? Also I am still employed at the same place, so enter “not looking for work”? This won’t make my claim rejected ? Thanks

  12. My regular unemployment claim just became exhausted (no more funds) although it shows it’s active through October. Can I file a Pandemic Claim after my regular claim expires? If so do I answer yes to the question “are you unemployed as a result of covid?” I lost my job before covid but am having a hard time finding a new one due to covid. Thanks

  13. Hi Forest,

    I am having such trouble contacting CDLE at the two customer service numbers provided on their site. I have questions about backpay/backdates to receive payments from previous weeks.Long story short- I had to file twice through Florida (where I live now) because their system was so messed up and always under “maintenance” or crashing, got my first app in and was told a month later that I would need to RE-submit it again since I had submitted before April4th and was deemed “ineligible” without reason sent to me. So I reapplied again in late April and was waiting a couple weeks when someone from the HR department of the corporate team of my workplace let me know I was having trouble because I should be applying through Colorado (where I worked all through 2019, and that I hadn’t worked in Florida long enough, even though I had made enough money in the short time, to apply even though my Florida workplace is who laid me off due to COVID). So here I am, applying to Colorado unemployment in MAY, gets accepted, files claims for the two weeks, gets approved (!!!!!!! hallelujah), but I really need help with getting payments from the two months of unemployment I was waiting on a Florida system that practically doesn’t exist and couldn’t help me or even tell me that I wasn’t eligible to apply through them
    I am desperate to get information and call everyday and nothing changes, Please let me know if you can help me connect with someone from CDLE or how I can apply for backpay? Thank you thank you!!

  14. Hi, I was receiving benefits for a few weeks prior to the CARES act implementation, I’ve read that the extra $600/wk can be backdated to March 29,, 2020 but haven’t received it. How do I go about requesting that?

  15. HI Mr. Wilson,m
    I’d love a response to this. I filed last week, and got my acceptance for benefits. Now I get emails telling me to go to my home page and click on a Start link (which doesn’t exist) and fill out a questionnaire (which I can’t access because the start link for Weekly Certifications doesn’t exist). I of course cannot reach anyone, the phones don’t answer, and the system is overwhelmed. I can’t find the chat box to ask this question, and am completely flummoxed. I’ve been approved, that’s not the problem. The problem is this set of instrucrtions”
    request payment.

    Login to your account in the ‘existing claimants’ section
    Go to the Pending Weekly Certifications section and click on the Start Weekly Certification link that is active for the week you can request. You always must file the oldest week first.
    Follow the instructions and answer the questions truthfully.

    Again, there is no Start Weekly Certification Link anywhere on my profile. I can’t follow these instructions if there is no link. Am I nuts? I can’t call anyone to get this question answered.

    Thanks kindly.

    Repeat these steps for every active Start Weekly Certification link.
    Every Sunday, a new week will become active and you can request that week.

  16. I jsut reopened my old 2019 unemployment claim and now it’s exhausted….they did however pay out what was remaining and then $600. but before that I saw if it showed exhausted to apply separately for the PUA through a different website, which I did and it shows active and I set up my direct deposit for them, do I have to request payment weekly for the PUA? Is my true unemployment claim truly exhausted? I am soooo confused right now. help! thanks you in advance!

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