Extended benefits delayed for jobless Coloradans
July 22, 2009
DENVER – Coloradans due for a 20-week extension in unemployment benefits that was supposed to kick in July 1 will have to wait until late August while state officials determine who is eligible.
Payments will be retroactive to July 1.
Gov. Bill Ritter signed a bill in June granting the extension to people who have already exhausted 59 weeks of benefits. It released $127 million in federal stimulus dollars to the state’s unemployment benefits trust fund.
Steve Fowler, director of unemployment insurance for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, estimates 5,000 to 6,000 people will be due money by August.
At times the department’s computer system and phone lines have been overwhelmed by people seeking unemployment aid, since large numbers of Coloradans started getting laid off last fall. About 160,000 Coloradans are collecting benefits. The state’s unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in May.
Colorado originally provided 26 weeks of benefits. As millions of Americans began losing jobs last fall, Congress authorized a 20-week extension.
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When the three-month average unemployment rate in Colorado topped 6 percent in February, that triggered the federal government to provide 13 more weeks of unemployment benefits.
“People really need the money,” said Rich Jones, director of policy and research at the Bell Policy Center think tank. “One of the major reasons this is part of the stimulus package is so it gets out there and is spent in the economy.”