The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment announced that by midday Monday more than 100,000 people had accessed the new claims system and more than 43,000 had put in their first request for payments.
Still, some people reported trouble while trying to create a new password and login, especially those with AOL and Yahoo email accounts. And many people who are not eligible to file for claims misunderstood directions that they needed to wait and became frustrated by payment denials.
“Ultimately, it’s headed in a good direction,” said Erin Joy Swank, an unemployed stage manager who moderates a Facebook page about Colorado’s unemployment system. “But, ooof, getting there …” She laughed before she finished the sentence.
The labor department launched the new claims system on Sunday morning; it was a project that took 22 years to come together and cost more than $97 million to complete. The labor department and Governor’s Office of Information Technology hired Deloitte, a giant consulting and professional services firm, to build the system. The department had planned to launch the system in April but delayed it because of the pandemic.
A bulk of complaints about the system on Monday came from people who were unable to reset their passwords and access the system. Those still waiting on password reset emails should check their spam folders. They should not keep resubmitting password reset requests.
“Some email providers, including but not limited to Yahoo and AOL, are experiencing significant delays in delivering emails from the MyUI+ system for password resets,” the department or labor wrote in an update Sunday. “Unfortunately, this is an email provider issue.”
But Lewis Hachmeister, who lost his job as a restaurant cook on Jan. 5, said he was unable to reset his password using a Gmail account. He said he would enter his information and it would tell him to go to his email for a code but then he would be rejected with a message that read, “invalid information.” He was at a loss as to why he kept getting that message.
“You try and fail three times and you get locked out,” he said. “You have to call somebody on the phone and they can’t help you.”
After almost two hours on hold, Hachmeister finally reached someone through a call center hotline only to be told to call back at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
“I have almost no hope that at 8 a.m. they’re magically going to have this new system figured out,” he said. “It doesn’t seem possible to me.’’
Meanwhile, he and his wife, who still has a job, will pinch pennies to pay their bills.
Labor department officials on Monday emphasized again that the new claims system is only set up to serve people collecting traditional state unemployment benefits. The thousands of Coloradans enrolled in the federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PUEC, programs must wait.
“Some claimants have a perception that the system isn’t working because PUA/PEUC claimants will not get benefits until we finish reprogramming the new system to implement the extension of those federal benefit programs and are ready to pay,” Cher Haavind, the state labor department’s deputy executive director, wrote in an email Monday. “We have sent six emails to this effect to communicate this to claimants.”
Those programs lapsed last month because Congress and the president were slow to renew them. The U.S. Department of Labor provided the state with final guidance on extensions for those programs Friday. A relaunch date has yet to be announced but state officials say the new unemployment system is much easier to reprogram, which should speed up rollout.
Right now, MyUI+ is only set up to allow existing unemployment recipients to file weekly requests for support. The labor department hopes the system will be capable of accepting new claims later this week.
From now through Jan. 22, the state’s unemployment call center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday. The number is (303) 536-5615. Help is available in English and Spanish, but operators don’t have access to all claims details.
The labor department is offering other resources to help users transition.
“The MyUI+ page on the ColoradoUI.gov website includes instructions on how to log into MyUI+ the first time, as well as how-to videos,” Haavind wrote Monday. “We will continue to update that page with additional information and FAQs.”
Swank, who moderates the Facebook page, recommends people watch the videos because some of the functions are not intuitive. The new system, once fully running, should be better because people who are out of work can file claims weekly. And they can go back into the system to fix some user errors without having to rely on someone answering a phone at a call center.
“I know it needed to be done,” Swank said. “The timing absolutely sucked.”