(The Center Square) - Colorado will begin distributing the second phase of federal benefits that were extended under the Continued Assistance Act in the coming weeks, the state's labor department said Sunday.
Under the legislation, which was signed in December, the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) claim programs were extended for 11 weeks.
Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) opted for a phased rollout because its systems required reprogramming to accommodate the changes. The agency has faced criticism for delays since CARES Act-funded benefits expired near the end of December.
Under Phase 1, which began on Jan. 28, 104,000 claimants received $166 million in benefits since the beginning of the month, according to CDLE.
Phase 2 of the benefits rollout will begin the week of Feb. 22, the department said Monday.
"We know that many Coloradans are facing extreme economic hardships right now, and have been anxiously waiting for the ability to apply for these added benefits," CDLE Executive Director Joe Barela said in a statement. "The phased-in rollout of the program has been frustrating for many, however, our priority has been to get benefits in the hands of the most eligible claimants we could feasibly reach at one time."
Barela added that the "new, modernized cloud-based system will allow for much speedier implementation of future pandemic assistance legislation that we expect to come from the new administration."
Phase 2 will apply to claimants who exhausted their PUA and PEUC claims, as well as allow for new claims to be filed, the department said.
"The Department will notify claimants in the coming weeks about next steps to reopen their claims," CDLE said.