Unemployment Benefits FAQs for Colorado Workers Displaced by COVID-19

Most workers displaced by closures or reduced hours due to COVID-19 precautions are eligible for unemployment benefits, which are funded by employer unemployment insurance (UI) premiums and wage reporting. While the following information and links are specific to Colorado unemployment insurance benefits, the process and requirements are similar among most states per federal guidelines.

FAQ Quick Links

Should I tell my employees to file for unemployment if we have to close or reduce hours due to COVID-19?

Yes. Most employees who are laid off or have reduced hours due to COVID-19 are eligible for state unemployment benefits.

Advise workers to prepare for filing a claim now, even if they’re still working:

  • Go to colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/start-a-claim
  • After hours are reduced or eliminated, workers can continue the process to file a claim. They do not have to wait for those hours to be paid out in payroll.
  • It may take 2-6 weeks to process claims; state agencies are working to alleviate processing delays and get payments to workers as quickly as possible.

In order to maintain eligibility for unemployment benefits, claimants need to closely follow requirements and deadlines to submit requests for payments. If they use job-attached status, the work-search requirement is waived if the worker returns to the same job within 16 weeks of the last day worked.

Unemployment Filing Tips

To help streamline the unemployment claims process, the CO Department of Labor & Employment (CDLE) asks that filers follow these guidelines: 

  • If your last name begins with the letter A - M, file a claim on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, or after 12 noon on Saturday
  • If your last name begins with the letter N - Z, file a claim on Monday, Wednesday, Friday or before 12 noon on Saturday
  • Click the Save & Finish Later button often, and click File a Claim to return to the last page you saved
  • File during non-peak hours (evenings after 8 p.m., late nights, early mornings)
  • You must provide information about the reason you are no longer working for all employers from the last 18 months. If you have a lot of information to include, it is best if you type up this information before you start, then copy/paste at the appropriate time.
  • Once finished, click Submit one time. When the claim is successfully submitted, you will receive a confirmation page and number.

The CDLE has put together this FAQ Document for Filing Unemployment Claims >>

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How do employees know if they qualify for unemployment benefits?

In order to qualify for unemployment benefits, employees must:

  • Be unemployed through no fault of their own
  • Be able, available, and actively seeking work*
  • Have earned $2,500 during their base period
    • Base period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before the start date of the claim. The is an alternate base period calculation if the employee did not earn at least $2,500.

*If an employee indicates "job attached” status, the work-search requirement is waived if the employee is expected to return to the same job within 16 weeks of their last day of work.

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Are s-corp officers eligible for unemployment benefits?

Corporate officers (s-corp and c-corp) are viewed as statutory employees. So long as they have been reporting their earnings, they are eligible to apply for benefits. That said, the CO Department of Labor & Employment cannot guarantee that any employee will receive unemployment benefits; each claim is adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.

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Are seasonal employees eligible for unemployment benefits?

Yes, seasonal employees, such as ski industry workers, may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they were laid off during the season.

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How long does it take for employees to receive unemployment payments?

Normally, it takes 4-6 weeks for an unemployment claim to be processed. Due to the unprecedented increase in claims, state agencies are working hard to expand systems and capabilities in order to issue payments as early as 2 weeks after filing. We anticipate that states will adopt emergency orders and ramp up services to accommodate the influx of claims and get money into workers’ pockets more quickly.

In the meantime, community resources are available to workers while they wait for unemployment benefits. Also, banks, utility companies and other services may waive payments and late fees for displaced workers if requested.

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If we pay-out vacation time, severance, etc, can employees still file for unemployment?

Yes, an unemployment claim can still be filed, but benefits may be reduced or delayed.

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Are there alternatives to laying off employees?

Yes, effective April 1, 2020 your employees may qualify for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act for paid leave. There are also payroll assistance options for small businesses under the CARES Act.

The Work-Share Program provides an alternative to laying off employees by allowing them to keep working, but with fewer hours. While an employee is working fewer hours, he or she may be eligible to collect part of his or her regular unemployment benefits. To participate, employers must meet the following requirements:

  • Reduced normal weekly work hours by at least 10%, but by no more than 40%; and
  • The reduction must affect at least two out of all employees; and
  • Paid as much in premiums as agency paid your former employees in unemployment insurance benefits (see rate notice mailed to you in November)

Submit an application for the Work-Share Program >>

Other alternatives to laying off workers and ways to provide support:

  • Cut other unnecessary costs; ask banks, services, etc if they are able to waive payments and late fees during this time
    • Some localities may defer sales tax payments; we'll post more information as it becomes available
  • Furlough vs laying off employees
    • Furlough requires employees to work fewer hours or take unpaid time off
      • Be careful when furloughing exempt salaried employees – they still need to meet the minimum salary exemption or risk losing exempt status under FLSA
      • Furloughed employees must be completely relieved of all duties; they cannot check emails or any work-related tasks while on furlough
      • Employees with reduced hours may qualify for unemployment benefits
    • Layoff is a temporary separation from payroll. The employee is able to collect unemployment benefits and the employer may maintain benefit coverage.
  • Implement a remote workforce if possible
  • Keep watch for temporary work in high-demand jobs, such as logistics, delivery, and healthcare so you can refer workers to opportunities

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As an employer, what is my role in the unemployment claims process?

Only workers can apply for unemployment; you cannot file on their behalf. But, you can direct them to resources and information on filing a claim:  

After a claim is filed, the state will send you notification and request job-separation documentation to confirm wages, length of employment, if claimant is job-attached, etc. The most efficient way to receive and respond to these requests is by signing up for online access via SIDES E-Response. If you are an ASAP client, we can assist you with verifying employee information.

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If status in employment changes after unemployment has been filed, what actions do I need to take as an employer?

It is understandable that situations will change over the next couple of months. Employment status can be changed with the unemployment agency as circumstances change. It is very important for the employees to keep the agency updated with changes and any additional income they may receive. Not updating the agency can potentially cause employee to lose the benefit. 

Also, you can note any status changes for individuals when you respond to unemployment notifications.

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Disclaimer: This information is provided as a self-help tool and does not constitute legal or financial advice. Laws, regulations and lending products are changing daily and decisions as to whether or how to use this information and/or what actions to take in response to the COVID19 Pandemic are solely those of the employer. The providers of this information disclaim any and all responsibility and liability for its accuracy, completeness or fitness for your particular business purposes.

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