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State taking an average of 8 to 10 weeks to process unemployment claims

Blames backlog on COVID-19 pandemic
Posted at 9:03 PM, Apr 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-14 00:32:55-04

LOVELAND, Colo. — Recently, Contact Denver7 has seen a spike in complaints from Coloradans who need their unemployment benefits but are getting a big fat nothing. So we started digging to found out why, and discovered the state is dealing with a serious backlog in process claims.

Every day for the last month, Scott Walker has spent hours looking for a job.

"I'm 67-years0old and I'm not in the best of health," said the Loveland man. "And I hear I hear back from some [jobs], and some of them I don't hear back from, and it's hard."

When Walker lost his job last month, he thought unemployment would see him through. But five weeks later, his account is locked, and he hasn't received a dime.

"I've just been basically trying to make my note as small as possible and living off savings, and I'm getting to the end of that," Walker said. "So it's getting a little scary."

Phil Spesshardt heads the state's unemployment division and says he isn't surprised Contact Denver7 is hearing increased complaints.

"I have seen a series of those that have taken longer than 10 to 12 weeks, at this point in time," Spesshardt said.

He says the problem goes back to the pandemic, when the state had 10 years-worth of unemployment claims in one year.

In an executive order, Governor Jared Polis expedited payouts, and federal programs eased staffing requirements. But both of those programs have since expired, while the backlog remains.

"We are we continue to try to onboard more staff," Spesshardt said. "We don't get into this job to have people wait forever, don't get into this job to treat people poorly. We get in this job trying to assist people at a time of some serious financial needs for them."

This month, the state is training 20 more people to process claims, but also says fraud is bogging things down.

If a person's information was stolen and used to file a previous, fraudulent claim, the current system makes it very difficult for the real person to get paid. It's the situation Walker is currently dealing with.

"I mean, [the state is] very polite, very nice about it, but clueless," he said.

After Contact Denver7 reached out, the state is now expediting Walker's claim.

Walker hopes to have a new job soon. For all the others caught in a broken system, he hopes for change.

"They've had two years of the pandemic to deal with it. They've had plenty of time to staff up. I don't think it's appropriate that it takes this long to process it," Walker said. "And if I'm having trouble getting it, Heaven only knows!"

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