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What to expect when Colorado’s new unemployment site goes live

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About 289,000 Coloradans can log into the state’s new unemployment system on Saturday to sign up for benefits. We asked CDLE director Joe Barela what to expect.

DENVER There is no professional sport to watch in person.

Hamilton will not be played in Denver until February 2022.

Yet Colorado is the host of the city’s most popular ticket.

On Saturday, the state’s unemployment website went live for the hundreds of thousands of Coloradans who have been waiting for benefits since late last year.

The state sent emails to 289,000 people eligible for extended benefits which took effect on December 27. It took two weeks for the US Department of Labor to publish the final rules for these benefits, then an additional three weeks for the state to program its computer systems to issue these benefits for people who had not yet achieved a zero balance in the year. December 26. Now, three weeks later, the state is opening the next phase: granting benefits to those whose balance has reached zero either on December 26 or since.

RELATED: Colorado to Launch Phase 2 of Federal Unemployment Benefits on Saturday

Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) Executive Director Joe Barela spoke with Then with Kyle Clark. Below the questions and answers have been condensed for brevity.

Q: What if 289,000 people try to access the state unemployment site at the same time tomorrow?

Barrels: “We have tested the system and are confident that the system will be able to handle this load. It is possible that 289,000 people will not apply. It’s just the universe of people who have exhausted their benefits since last year. could have gone back to work, moved out of state. “

Q: What happens tomorrow, will people get money tomorrow?

Barrels: “As with any electronic money transfer, it can take 24 hours or 72 hours. Just like placing money in a Venmo account, switching between bank accounts. It can take up to 72 hours a once those funds go out of the Department of Work and into that individual’s choice narrative. “

“I think Tuesday, and if they have a really good financial institution, they could be there by Monday.”

Q: When will the delay in state unemployment benefits no longer be an inherited problem and the fault of the previous team? When will it be for you and your team?

Barrels: “I think there will be a point in time, but we’re less than two months away from MyUI + going live on January 10, so with any massive technology rollout that relies on inputs and outputs, we have to manage. some inherent information that arrived in the new system from the old system and clean it up. “

“I think hopefully within 90 days we’ll have a system up and running. We will have, what we would call faults or problems, corrected as they are identified.

“It was multiple governors, multiple administrations, decades. Our system that we inherited was built in 1983. It’s not just the last decade, but the technology of the last century that we were using.”

Q: Was this the best way to change the technologies?

Barrels: “I think the best way would have been for us to deploy in April before the pandemic hit, but that was not an option. We received over 100,000 complaints last week in March and April 1, and we knew we lacked the capacity to deploy a system that was not ready to meet that demand. “

“We were ready to make the transition in April 2020, but we all know the pandemic hit at the end of March, we had to put that on hold. There wasn’t a perfect time in the past year for us to deploy it. We set deadlines in August. We have set deadlines in October. We have set deadlines in December. “

Barela explained that the computer code had to be programmed for the new benefits adopted by Congress.

Barrels: “These weren’t about extensions, but four new programs that we had to put into the system and then start paying benefits. We need to demonstrate that everyone who enters the system with extensions are exhausted, not only state benefits in Colorado, but also eligible for benefits in other states? Did they exhaust all of the CARES Act programs before we incorporated them into the new Continuing Assistance Act program extension? “

In a statement provided after the interview, CDLE wrote:

It cannot be overstated if we had not modernized our benefit system:

  • Our programming time would have been 2-3 times longer for the extended federal. benefits (these programs are estimated to continue until 2021). The programs would most likely have expired before any claimant received their benefits.
  • None of the new federal programs would be part of the same system, confusing applicants and causing outbound communication problems.
  • Regular, potentially fraudulent UI claims would not be reported as quickly, if ever. During the launch of MyUI + on day one, we monitored the filing of suspicious foreign fraudulent claims and kept them from entering the system.
  • The 30+ year old system was becoming less stable, creating a risk for timely and accurate benefit payments

RELATED: Women Leaving Workforce During Pandemic At A Faster Pace Than Colorado Men

RELATED: Colorado’s New Unemployment System a Success, Says Labor Official; Not everyone agrees

Q: What can you say to the people who are waiting for extra money, “Well, just so you know, you’re going to be healed?”

Barrels: “My team has not had a day off. We cannot fail to work on weekends. We are working tirelessly to try to make this program operational. We have deployed MyUI +, 1.5 million files are arrived, with that, we’re going to have problems, and we’re trying to solve them. “

“I know that doesn’t ring a bell, or it doesn’t help people whose rent is due on February 1 or February 15, but we are doing everything we can, with the limits we have, to put it in place. money in people’s pockets as quickly as possible. “

Q: Let’s say Congress waits March 14 or later (benefits expire March 13). Are we looking at another two weeks for the US Department of Labor rules, and then three weeks for getting group benefits phased?

Barrels: “This program, the Continued Assistance Act, will expire on March 13. My last information from Washington is that the Senate will not take charge, if a bill reaches them, until March 14. Guess what? The program has expired. We’re going to be in the same situation, where the states are getting the benefits of the latest program in the hands of the people, and we’re going to be in the same situation, there will be a shutdown of the benefits due to inaction at the national level. “

“I think if Congress passes real extensions to the Continuing Assistance Act, the gap will be shorter than it is now, the three weeks we live in Colorado. of a real extension, I think we can turn around very quickly. It just depends on the wording of the bill. “

Barela said an extension of existing benefits might be simpler to program into the MyUI + system compared to a new set of benefits that requires new computer coding.

Barrels: “We had to put in place identity verification measures before releasing the benefits. We had to verify that people were not eligible, not only in Colorado but in other states, for benefits before we could apply for these federal extensions. ”

“If none of that changes, I think Colorado will be able to turn around, even if they don’t act until after the 14th, earlier than a three week wait, and hopefully that it’s less than a week. “

Q: What was the use of outsourcing a call center to people in another state who may not be fully invested in supporting people on the other end? some thread?

Barrels: “These are choices we had to make on the fly. We are reassessing this decision. We needed a relief valve so that these people could be faced with little technical questions about opening a claim, sort of going through the system. were trained to help people reapply. “

Here are the unemployment statistics from the CDLE:

Since the start of the pandemic:

We have paid out over $ 7.3 billion in state and federal unemployment insurance benefits to nearly a million Coloradans.

We estimate that we have prevented over $ 7 billion in fraudulent benefits.

An estimated total of 818,005 regular initial unemployment claims were filed.

It is estimated that 290,219 initial PUA applications have been filed.

Since the launch of MyUI + in January:

We have provided over $ 510 million in state and federal benefits to over 180,000 people.

RELATED: Coloradans Turn To Outsiders For Help With Messy Unemployment System

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