Colorado Unemployment Extension
For most unemployed claimants, Colorado unemployment benefits last about 26 weeks – although that number may be shorter depending on the unemployment claim and if new unemployment is secured. But in some rare instances and during unique situations, there may be a Colorado unemployment extension.
Colorado Unemployment State Extended Benefits (SEB)
When the unemployment rate in Colorado exceeds 5%, a federally funded program called State Extended Benefits kicks in, providing an additional 13 weeks of extended unemployment benefits for those who have already met Colorado unemployment eligibility requirements.
SEB is automatically available for claimants who exhausted their maximum unemployment benefits. But once the unemployment rate falls back below 5%, SEB is no longer available, and cannot come back into play for at least 13 weeks, even if unemployment rates rise back above 5% again. To put some things in perspective, the Colorado unemployment rate dipped to 2.4% in April 2017, rose to almost 12% in May 2020, and has since fallen to about 3.4%.
The CARES Act, American Rescue Plan, and the Benefits they Created
The CARES Act & American Rescue Plan Act created additional unemployment benefits for individuals whose economic security was impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Federal unemployment benefits created as an additional benefit for additional weeks were administered through the labor department of the federal government in conjunction and partnership with individual states and their employment security departments, such as the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
Americans experienced high unemployment during the pandemic, and federal funding helped provide lost wages assistance in addition to state benefits. Unemployed workers could access regular unemployment benefits, PUA benefits, or PEUC benefits as an extension after that.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance was a federally created program that helped states pay unemployment compensation benefits to claimants who would not have otherwise qualified for regular unemployment benefits, such as self-employed individuals (like gig workers or contract workers) or claimants whose earnings during their base period would not have qualified them for UI benefits.
This CARES Act program provided up to 39 weeks of such benefits. The WBA (weekly benefit amount) of PUA was based on the applicant’s tax return and could range from a minimum payment of $223 to a maximum payment of $618. To put it in perspective, the current minimums and maximums of unemployment in Colorado for claimants who were on a payroll (e.g. not self-employed) are $25 and $742.
The Continuing Assistance Act extended PUA for 11 weeks, for a total of 50 weeks. The American Rescue Plan added 29 weeks to this total, bringing it up to 79 weeks of benefit payments until September 4th, 2021.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation was a federal CARES Act program that extended state unemployment benefits by 13 weeks for claimants who had exhausted their state’s maximum benefits already. The Continuing Assistance Act extended regular unemployment benefits another 11 weeks, and the American Rescue Plan extended these further by 29 weeks for a total of 53 weeks, ending September 4th, 2021.
PEUC essentially provided a week and one year of wages for claimants who did not need to engage in a work search because of the pandemic. However, in normal circumstances, claimants must engage in work search activity. Claimants qualified automatically for PEUC, as long as they continued to file their claims on time. They did not need to apply separately online or go in person to a Colorado unemployment office location.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation was established by the CARES act to supplement regular unemployment benefits or PUA with an additional $600 per claimant between March 29th, 2020 and July 31st, 2020. The Continuing Assistance Act continued these payments at $300 for 11 weeks between December 26th, 2020 and March 13th, 2021. The American Rescue Plan continued these bonus payments further until September 4th, 2021. No additional application was needed for PEUC when you would file your weekly claim, as the benefits would be paid out automatically in addition to your UI benefits or PUA.
Mixed Earnings Unemployment Compensation was a unique type of program for claimants who were both on W2 payroll and who worked independently as 1099 contractors. Those eligible for MEUC would receive an additional $100 on top of their regular unemployment benefits to compensate for the loss of self-employment income (e.g. gig work or side hustle) that had also been negatively impacted by the pandemic.
To qualify for MEUC, claimants had to submit documentation of earning $5,000 of self-employment earnings for the prior tax year – for instance, a 1099 issued by an app like Uber or a marketplace like Upwork. The American Rescue Plan extended MECU through September 6th, 2021.
Colorado Disaster Unemployment Assistance
Any time the President of the United States declares a natural disaster in the United States, there is a special type of unemployment assistance that kicks in to support locals who may have been negatively impacted by a flood, fire, hurricane, earthquake, or pandemic (to name a few potential conditions).
DUA has existed since the 1974 passage of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. The program provides unemployment assistance to claimants who would not normally qualify for traditional, regular unemployment insurance. The Disaster Assistance Period (DAP) starts on the first day of the week following the date the disaster is declared to have begun and continues for as many as 26 weeks.
The maximum WBA varies by state, but the minimum is 50% of the average benefit amount in the state, and not necessarily the state minimum (which may be lower). When eligible, Colorado residents can file for DUA through the regular unemployment insurance benefits portal.