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State still behind in processing unemployment benefits affecting hundreds of Coloradans

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - Colorado Springs resident Joe McNaughton is one of hundreds of Coloradans who continue to wait months for unemployment benefits.

McNaughton was laid off by Maxim Crane Works at the end of November. Within two weeks, he filed for unemployment with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), officially submitting his claim on Dec. 11. Nearly three months later, McNaughton hasn’t received a penny.

“Thank God that my wife works and we have some money in savings,” McNaughton said. “If I didn't have that, I wouldn't have a house right now, I wouldn't have a car. I would be done.”

McNaughton said the process to even file a claim was frustrating. He said he called the CDLE customer service line only to wait on hold for hours. When he eventually got through he said the representatives were of little help. For weeks, he said he had to refile the same paperwork over and over again.

“This shouldn't be happening,” he said. “That's not how government is supposed to work. Government's here to take care of us, not to hinder us.”

McNaughton’s claim is now on hold waiting for a final approval, but he said he’s been waiting on this last step for a month.

“The worst part of it all is that they'll tell you, ‘It's coming, we just don't know when,’” McNaughton said.

TJ Cuchares is in nearly an identical situation. He filed for unemployment on Dec. 10 and still hasn’t received any payments. He too called the CDLE dozens of times only to wait on hold and never talk to a live person, he said.

Both Cuchares and McNaughton said they reached out to Colorado Governor Jared Polis’ office as well as state lawmakers to expedite the process but never heard back. They claim the state owes them about $7,000 in unemployment.

“I don't see how people can exist like this,” McNaughton said. “We pay our taxes, yet something that is pretty much our right, we can't even get.”

KRDO13 Investigates reached out to the CDLE about the nearly four-year unemployment benefit backlog. The department declined an interview but provided a statement through email.

“While the majority of claims (86%) are paid within six weeks or less , we understand claimant frustration when awaiting benefits. 

Claims experiencing additional processing time are likely due to a variety of factors including: program integrity holds due to suspected fraud, separation issues requiring more extensive adjudication/fact finding including “quits” and terminations and slow fact finding responses from employers or claimants. 

We continue to see sustained high levels of claims and have not yet returned to pre-pandemic claims volume. This, coupled with recurring fraud scams, continues to put pressure on our claims processing.”

Colorado Department of Labor and Employment

KRDO13 Investigates reported on these unemployment delays six months ago. The people we spoke to at the time had their claims quickly approved after the story was published, however, it seems the larger systemic issues for processing these claims haven’t improved, affecting hundreds of Coloradans. In response, McNaughton had some terse advice for the department.

“Get your head out of your posterior,” he said.

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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