Thousands of unemployed Coloradans flooded the state’s unemployment site on Sunday, just doing what they had been instructed to do: Request payment on Jan. 3.
But many found themselves stymied by a system that would not let them log in or by a note telling them they weren’t allowed to request a payment. And by late morning, the system was overwhelmed, with many users complaining they could not get through.
The snafu was blamed on the email that “erroneously instructed (recipients) to file for weekly payments on Sunday,” a Colorado Department of Labor and Employment spokesperson said.
About a half-million people were sent the “action required” email last week reminding them to make a request before the state put all claims on pause in order to move everyone to an upgraded computer system. But not everyone was eligible to make a request on Sunday.
This also had nothing to do with the end of extended or pandemic benefits, or the start of new federal benefits. The new 11 weeks plus an additional $300-per-week payment of federal benefits have not started in Colorado. The state must separately reprogram its computer system to add the federal unemployment benefit.
The timing of programs ending and restarting plus the state’s computer upgrade led to mass confusion on Sunday, said Erin Joy Swank, who recently began moderating a private Facebook group of 4,300 unemployed Coloradans. She just wanted clarity from state officials that out-of-work Coloradans will still be eligible for the new federal benefits.
“There’s a double tragedy here that the new system has to be implemented with new guidelines but the new system must add the new (federal jobless) extensions but people can’t get in,” Swank said.
To make matters worse, those trying to file Sunday for extended federal unemployment pay, called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PEUC, were then told they had nothing left, but could file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA. However, the PUA program stopped taking new claims after Dec. 26, when all federal unemployment programs ended.