The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s Unemployment Insurance system has been overwhelmed the last week due to an unprecedented increase in benefit demand as a result of COVID-19, the department announced Monday.

The department is adding call center staff, implementing a new “last name” online filing system and revising website content with answers to customer inquiries on filing errors, a press release stated.

“This morning alone, we had 186,000 attempts to contact our call center before we opened our phone queue at 8 a.m. That number a week ago was 9,000,” said Joe Barela, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

“All of our systems are overloaded – as are (unemployment insurance)systems across the country – and we know frustration and anxiety is high. We are doing the best we can to navigate these uncertain times and want claimants to know their benefits will not be reduced due to any filing delays.”

The department added 90 internal staff to the customer call center Monday to provide immediate assistance. In addition, another 90 call center staff and document management staff will be increased over the course of the next two weeks through April 3.

A new voluntary gating system that allows claimants access to file based on last name is now recommended, but will be mandatory later this week.

If you need to file an unemployment claim and your last name begins with a letter between A and M, file a claim on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday or after noon on Saturday.

If you need to file an unemployment claim and your last name begins with a letter from N-Z, file a claim on Monday, Wednesday, Friday or before noon on Saturday.

New FAQs based on common questions and issues are also being updated daily. Online filers are encountering two common errors: one on the eligibility screen and another on the employer verification screen. Claimants should save their application throughout the filing process and can return to it at a later time.

Volume continues to impact the system, but benefit payments will not be reduced because of application issues, the department stated.

More information will be posted at coloradoui.gov as it becomes available.

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