The state is trying to manage the overwhelming demand. On any given day prior to the pandemic, the state’s unemployment call center would receive about 1,000 calls. On Monday alone, it received 225,000 calls.
“[I’ve been calling] all hours — just trying to get through … haven’t been able to,” said substitute teacher Angela Garcia.
Garcia, who works for schools in southern Colorado, isn’t sure she’ll qualify for unemployment benefits, but the state is advising that she files. The same is true for her husband who was laid off prior to the pandemic.
“I’ve tried online and it kept kicking me out,” Garcia said.
It’s been even more challenging for people to file over the phone. The call volume has prompted the state to recommend applying online. To better manage workflow, applicants are limited to certain days and time windows based on the alphabetical order of their last names.
While thousands don’t have any options outside of filing for unemployment, there are others determined to avoid the benefit all together.
“I will make it work, yeah, I will not be filing,” said instructor and personal trainer Caitlin Pittaway.
Pittaway’s studios will pay her through April. After that, there are no guarantees. She’s been forced to reach her clients online.
“It’s totally different and very weird,” she said. “Everybody is just adjusting so quickly to figuring it out … making it work online.”
Over the past four days, 40,000 applications for unemployment have been submitted in Colorado.
“We’re probably hovering anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 applications each day,” said Cher Haavind with the Coronado Department of Labor and Employment.
The total number of filed claims over the last week is nearly eight times higher than the worst week of the Great Recession in 2010, according to statistics released by the state in a press release on Thursday.
With the president’s signature on the stimulus package, the unemployed could see a $600 boost in payments. For those who filed before that bill was passed and signed, the state says, simply wait.
“Please don’t file a new claim,” Haavind said. “They don’t need to call about when that $600 [will arrive]. What they need to do to receive that $600 [is know] that this will be something we will work on our end.”
Each month the state releases its official unemployment rate. For February, it was only 2.5%. The March percentage will be released April 17.