FORT COLLINS – It could take up to four weeks for Colorado to begin distributing new federal unemployment benefits, officials said, but it could be sooner because the state is updating its computer system.
Joe Barela, executive director of the state Department of Labor and Employment, said Tuesday that an improved computer system could speed up the process so unemployed residents could receive benefits “a little sooner,” the Colorado Sun reported.
Barela said the programs are expected to launch in phases and that “the federal pandemic unemployment compensation, which is the additional $300 a week, will be the first program we roll out.”
Many unemployed residents saw their benefits end the day after Christmas, when the initial coronavirus relief expired. The new federal aid package provides up to 11 more weeks for everyone on unemployment, including an additional $300 a week.
The computer upgrade was originally scheduled for last spring but was delayed because of the pandemic. The state kept people on regular unemployment on the old system and put those receiving only federal benefits on the new system.
The computer upgrade began Tuesday, and everyone is expected to be on the new system by Sunday, department officials said. The system then needs to be programmed to add the federal benefits, so many people won’t get paid until the update is completed.
“Had we stayed with the combination of old and new technology, some of these programs in old technology would not even be possible to program,” department Deputy Director Cher Haavind said.
She said it’s not clear when the extended benefits will begin but that the new technology will cut reprogramming time in half.
Officials have encouraged people on regular unemployment to request their next payment early to prevent them from missing it during the computer upgrade. Those on regular unemployment can start using the new system Sunday and get access to payments weekly instead of every other week.
People who received federal employment benefits will be notified when the system is ready.
“We believe there will be an additional step required by those claimants but we don’t have guidance on that now and we’ll be communicating to those folks accordingly,” Haavind said.