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First round of $300 Lost Wages Assistance payments headed to Coloradans

After a week dogged by tech glitches, Colorado’s unemployment officials sent their first batch of Lost Wages Assistance program payments out Thursday.

By Friday afternoon, thousands of Coloradans could start receiving their first lump payments through the federal program, state officials say. The program, abbreviated LWA, was set up to give eligible unemployed people an extra $300 per week in support for the six weeks stretching from July 26 through Sept. 5, covering some of the financial gap created when the $600-per-week Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program ended in late July.

The payments will come out in two installments of $900 each. State labor officials say that, based on how quickly people move to certify they are eligible for the payments, all of the $550 million-plus the federal government has given Colorado for the program could be paid out by the end of the month.

Thursday’s payment approval covered 28,000 people, according to the labor department. Payments for at least another 94,000 will be sent to unemployed people’s banks and financial institutions on Friday, though that money may not show up in accounts until Monday or later, labor officials say.

The LWA program, established by President Donald Trump last month and drawing money from the federal Disaster Relief Fund, requires that people certify they lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic to receive money. People on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program created earlier this year to address needs created by the pandemic already do this and don’t need to take additional steps, but those on Colorado’s state unemployment benefits do.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment started quietly certifying people receiving state benefits on Sept. 11. Then on Monday, after notifying more than 220,000 people of their eligibility and encouraging them to certify, the automated system used for that process begun to buckle under the weight of the demand and fail before people could certify.

The system was shut down on Wednesday while state IT officials worked with technology vendors to address the capacity problems. It was relaunched on Thursday afternoon and has worked well since, allowing around 34,000 more people to certify from Thursday afternoon through Friday morning, according to Cher Haavind, the labor department’s deputy executive director.

State officials say that people who certified earlier this week do not need to do so again. A single certification is all that is required to collect money for the entire six-week program period. Applicants must submit their Social Security Number and ZIP code to certify. If a person has moved since first filing their unemployment claim, they must use the ZIP code for their address when they first filed.

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