DENVER — The surge of unemployment claims in Colorado has led to some difficulty navigating the state's unemployment website, so officials are asking filers to spread out their usage on the site.
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment on Monday requested the following:
• If your last name begins with the letter A-M, file your claim on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday or after noon on Saturday.
• If your last name begins with the letter N-Z, file your claim on Monday, Wednesday, Friday or before noon on Saturday.
Officials also urged filers to click the "Save & Finish Later" button on their online application often and then click "File a Claim" to return to the last page you saved. Filing during non-peak hours — after 8 p.m. or early in the morning — should also help reduce the volume on the website.
Last week more than 20,000 unemployment claims were filed on the state website, following Colorado's shutdown of dining at bars and restaurants and closures of nail and hair salons and massage parlors. The measures were aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus.
Calls to the state's unemployment office jumped from 9,900 two weeks ago to 99,000 last week week and total visits to the office's unemployment online application jumped from 7,000 two weeks ago to 114,000 last week.
The department on Monday added 90 staffers to the call center to help with the demand there, and another 90 will be added over the next two weeks.
“All of our systems are overloaded - as are UI systems across the country, and we know frustration and anxiety is high," said Joe Barela, executive director of the department. "We are doing the best we can to navigate these uncertain times and want claimants to know their benefits will not be reduced due to any filing delays.”
Anyone who is working fewer than 32 hours a week and who is earning less than approximately 55 percent of their average wage over a 12-month time period are eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer for unemployment, though, so for employees who are unsure whether they qualify for help, the best thing to do is apply to find out whether they are eligible.
There are three criteria for unemployment: the employee must be able and available to seek new work and actively seeking employment.
Filing for unemployment can happen online or over the phone. Colorado employees have access to 26 weeks of unemployment insurance available to them. Congress is currently looking at a potential additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance.
Traditionally, it takes between four and six weeks in a normal environment for a person who applies to be able to access the benefits. The agency is also looking at ways of speeding up those systems.