John Hickenlooper released the following statement after new reporting from the Denver Post highlighted Coloradans who count on the expired federal unemployment program to “pay the bills, cover the rent or mortgage and buy groceries.” Despite the July 25th expiration of this program, Mitch McConnell and Cory Gardner’s Senate refused to take action, took a two-week vacation, and returned to Washington with no plan to deliver relief for millions of struggling Americans:
“The clock ran out on 330,000 Coloradans who count on this critical unemployment insurance program, and Senator Cory Gardner couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger,” said Hickenlooper. “When you’re dealing with a crisis you work around the clock to solve it — you don’t take a two-week vacation and campaign with Ivanka Trump. People are counting on leadership from Washington, and they’re being let down.”
Read more from Coloradans who are counting on expanded federal unemployment below:
- Congress is debating whether to extend, reduce or replace the weekly $600 unemployment benefit that was part of a federal coronavirus relief package. And while the debate continues, the money has run out.
- Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans will keep getting their standard unemployment benefit from the state. But the extra $600 that has helped people pay the bills, cover the rent or mortgage and buy groceries ended on Saturday.
- Even if lawmakers resolve their differences soon — maybe even this week — over new spending and additional federal help for people out of work, there will be a lag while state labor departments reprogram their systems. That could take days or weeks, depending on how complicated the change is.
- The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment estimates that roughly 330,000 Coloradans were receiving the $600 a week on top of regular unemployment benefits. The self-employed, gig workers and independent contractors, who receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, also were able to draw the enhanced benefit.
- “Unfortunately, we likely know as much you do with regard to what action Congress might take,” Cher Haavind, the labor department’s deputy executive director, said in a call with reporters last week.
- Westminster resident Jim Mimna said the end of the federal benefit is frightening. “I have two kids. It’s not like it’s just my rear end that’s on the line right now […] It’s all gone, completely,” Mimna said.
- He also does commercial photography and sometimes photographs weddings. All the weddings he had lined up have been canceled. Last week, after making repairs to his van, he drove to Pueblo to check into a part-time delivery job for a marijuana company.
- The single dad started collecting unemployment about a month ago, after straightening out his taxes. He said the extra $600 a week has been a lifeline. Without it, he thinks his weekly unemployment payment could go as low as $100.
- “The only thing I know to do if I can’t make ends meet is to start selling my camera gear. I’ve got to keep a roof over the kids’ heads,” Mimna said.
- He has already sold some of his work, literally off his walls, to raise money.
- Erin Callihan said she’s eager to get back to work. She was an Uber driver in the Denver area for nearly two years and was working about 35 hours a week “when everything just came to that screeching halt.” After the pandemic hit, she didn’t earn enough to rent a car.
- Callihan said the regular unemployment payment plus the weekly $600 federal assistance have kept a roof over her head. She called the end of the benefit “terrifying.”
- “When the $600 drops off for me, I’m going to be down to $226 (a week) before taxes.”
- She said she could start “Ubering” again, but worries about the coronavirus. If she returns to work, Callihan said she would have to stay away from her mother and stepfather to protect them.
- “I am chomping at the bit to get back to work as soon as it’s safe. I’m a single person. I want to be able to go out and meet people,” Callihan said. “But I’m trying to do what I can do to prevent this virus from spreading farther. That’s where the $600 has been a benefit, allowing me to take those precautions and still maintain a place to live, maintain having food in my stomach.”