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More than 20,000 file for unemployment in Colorado following coronavirus closures

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Posted at 4:35 PM, Mar 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 20:37:29-04

DENVER — More than 20,000 unemployment claims have been filed through the Colorado Department and Labor and Employment this week, department officials said Friday afternoon.

Claim totals through the state website were trending toward 25,000 by the end of the day and were already up more than 1400% compared to last week. Calls to the state's unemployment office jumped from 9,900 last week to 99,000 this week and total visits to the office's unemployment online application jumped from 7,000 last week to 114,000 this week.

The surge of claims follows Monday's shutdown of dining at bars and restaurants in Colorado for 30 days in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The state on Thursday ordered hair and nail salons, spas, tattoo and massage parlors to also close, through April 30.

Gov. Jared Polis on Friday urged laid-off workers to continue filing for unemployment, even as the state website has had trouble processing the high volume of claims. Polis recommended people try to file their claims early in the morning or late at night to lessen the high volume at peak times during the day.

Unemployment officials earlier in the week called the surge in claims unprecedented, even compared to recession years.

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.

Other options for those seeking work

While many families are currently going through the process of applying for unemployment, another option might be to apply for a part-time or temporary job to help make ends meet.

Some grocery chains like King Soopers have announced that they are hiring. The chain even hosted a job fair over the weekend to hire new employees to help with the surge of shoppers it is experiencing.

A spokesperson for King Soopers says there are positions available in retail stores, manufacturing plants and distribution centers and that people could be able to start working within days of filing an application.

Safeway and Albertons, meanwhile, said they have more than 1,000 immediate openings in the Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and New Mexico region.

Meanwhile, Amazon says it is looking for about 100,000 new workers across the U.S. to keep up with the demand it is experiencing. Walmart this week said it is hiring 150,000 positions, including 2,900 in Colorado.

Across the state, some Workforce centers are open for walk-ins while others closed as the cities and counties try to contain the coronavirus.

The CDLE is encouraging people to apply for jobs or for unemployment insurance online. It is also hosting virtual hiring fairs online where people can see what jobs are available.