by Mark Craddock
COLORADO — Gov. Jared Polis and legislative leadership took actions last week to provide a $350 stimulus payment to the hundreds of thousands of Coloradans who have been, or are, on unemployment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The payments are expected to be distributed in early December.
This may come as particularly good news for residents of Huerfano County, whose unemployment rates has remained among the worst in the state since the pandemic hit.
“Washington D.C has failed to act to provide additional direct cash support for hardworking Coloradans and to further stimulate the economy, so today Colorado is boldly doing our part to help our own,” Gov. Polis announced Oct. 28. “I am taking swift action in close consultation with legislative leadership and members of the JBC to direct immediate payments to people whose lives and jobs have been hurt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Colorado can and should act now to help the hardworking people who will help lead us out of this challenging time and that’s what we’re doing today.”
Enhanced federal unemployment benefits have dried up since Sept. 5 and Polis said he hopes the program will provide some relief.
To be eligible, recipients must have received an unemployment payment since March 15 this year with a weekly benefit amount was $500 per week or less, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE).
The one-time payments will be made via the method of payment preference the CDLE has on file for the claimant — either a debit card or direct deposit.
CDLE expects the population of qualifying Coloradans to include approximately 435,000 workers making less than $52,0000 per year. CDLE officials said they expect payments to reach 65% of all unemployment claimants since March 15th, with a distribution across all Colorado counties.
Huerfano County continues to have among the worst unemployment numbers in Colorado, with an August unemployment rate of 9.4%. That is down from a July rate of 9.9%, but is second only to Gilpin County’s 10.7% unemployment. Huerfano County’s June unemployment rate was 13.9%, up from 10.9% in May.
“After being out of work for months and with no consistent federal support to rely on, people are hurting in Colorado,” Sen. Jeff Bridges said. “But we have the power to change things for the better. This support will help those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic and give families some much-needed breathing room.”
“These direct payments will help Coloradans who have been hit hardest by this crisis get through the pandemic, pay their rent or mortgage, and cover their essential needs,” House Majority Leader Alec Garnett said.
Polis’ Executive Order will make available $168 million from various state budget streams, including the general fund and disaster emergency funds.