DENVER – An estimated 330,000 Coloradans are still receiving the $600 per week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit that is set to expire Saturday, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said Thursday.
The PUC benefit is provided to anyone receiving regular unemployment or federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and is set to expire this weekend, with Congress still trying to decide what the details of the next COVID-19 stimulus package will be and if that will include any extended unemployment benefits.
In total, around 470,000 Coloradans have benefited from the PUC program since it began, officials said.
CDLE Deputy Executive Director Cher Haavind said the department “knows as much as you do” regarding what steps Congress might take next.
Since March 29, Colorado has paid out more than $2 billion in federal money directly in PUC benefits. That is on top of $428 million in federal PUA benefits, and $1.3 billion in regular unemployment benefits from the state trust fund.
Last week, 8,486 Coloradans filed regular initial unemployment claims – down from 10,506 the week prior. Another 7,912 Coloradans who are self-employed or “gig workers” filed PUA initial claims. Officials said last week that Colorado's June unemployment rate had risen slightly from May to June, to 10.5%.
Colorado paid out $80.9 million in regular unemployment benefits last week – up slightly from the $79 million paid out the week before.
For the week ending July 4, for which most recent data are available, accommodation and food services continued to top the list of industries with the highest number of initial claims, accounting for 11.5% of them for that week.
Health care and social service (10.8%) and administrative and support and waste management and remediation services accounted for 10.7% of claims that week, followed by retail trade (9%) and education services (7.8%).
CDLE officials said the new Google virtual tool to help address unemployment questions had handled 159,000 sessions with about a 90% success rate.
They said they had received notice of about 3,900 cases of people refusing to return to work and had processed about 3,100 of them. Unemployment Insurance Division Chief Jeff Fitzgerald said among those cases that were reported, about 16% of them were denied continuing benefits.
CDLE Senior Economist Ryan Gedney said the state’s unemployment trust fund is still scheduled to be insolvent by mid- to late-August. It currently has between $175 million and $200 million in funds, Gedney said. Once the fund becomes insolvent, the state will borrow through the rest of the year at zero interest from the federal government to continue paying regular unemployment benefits, as it did during the Great Recession and early ‘80s.
The $253 million in combined regular, PUA, PUC, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation paid out last week was the highest since the week ending June 20.