Demonstrations Surface As Frustrations With Lack Of Unemployment Benefits

Joe Barela, the Executive Director of CDLE said during a news call on Thursday, “To let you know how incredibly pleased we are with the rollout. Especially at a time when we have over 300,000 people that are eligible and continue to look for benefits in the system.”

The disconnect between the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and the claimants waiting for money has grown to the point of petitions and demonstrations. An online campaign is calling for Gov. Jared Polis to get involved, while some people seeking their unemployment insurance will protest outside department offices on Monday.

“Our whole goal is just to improve the overall process for people and get the money people need to pay their bills. I see people saying, ‘I’m giving up. I can’t even do it anymore.’ And there are people being evicted and their cars are being repossessed,” said Jolene Rheault who started the change.org petition that has reached hundreds of signatures in just a few hours. “It doesn’t seem like they’re addressing any of the real issues that I’ve seen people facing.”

Rheault and her husband are both facing issues with unemployment claims and can’t get any answers. They know they are not alone.

Countless Coloradans are falling into phase two of a rollout of new software and have been waiting weeks for money. On Thursday, the CDLE said it hoped to rollout phase two by the end of the month.

“Why is there not a date for phase two? Why were you not prepared for this? The fact that nothing is being done is just infuriating,” Rheault said.

CDLE is saying phase one has been a success with more than 100,000 people being paid over $216 million so far.

The department said fixes to the system are being made every day and because of the issues online, a call center is bringing on extra staff to address issues.

“We answered a total of about 11,000 calls on Monday through Wednesday of this week. We know the call center access has been an issue and we’re doing everything we can to make sure people have access,” Barela said.

Appointments are now being booked for a call back to claimants two weeks out, on Feb. 19. A system taking time, which claimants simply don’t have.

“There are other states that have rolled out unemployment benefits. Why is it such a problem in a city that is known for being a leader in technology to put this together?” Rheault said. “If we’re just hanging in the lurch and we can’t keep our homes, then how are we supposed to get a job?”

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