Federal workers in Jefferson County have made the most unemployment claims in Colorado since the government shutdown began three weeks ago, according to data from the state labor department.
Approximately 23 percent of the 1,642 unemployment claims filed by federal workers in Colorado since the government shutdown began are from Jefferson County. Denver County ranked second, at 12 percent, with Larimer County following at 11 percent.
“We expected Jefferson County because of the Federal Center location, but also these claims are not based on where the workers work but rather where they live,” said Cher Haavind, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. “…I do think the claims volume will increase significantly over the weekend so there may be something new to report Monday.”
Update on Jan. 14, 2019: As of Monday morning, 1,826 Coloradans filed unemployment claims related to the shutdown, according to the state Labor department.
Jefferson County is home to the Denver Federal Center, a complex housing 28 different agencies that employ approximately 8,000 people in 44 federal building, according to City of Lakewood data.
U.S. government employees have been furloughed or have been working without pay since Dec. 22. On Friday, the length of the shutdown tied for longest-lasting since the 1995-96 shutdown during the Clinton administration. By Saturday, it will be ranked as the longest furlough in U.S. history.
There seems to be no sign of a quick end to the partial shutdown. Congress remains at an impasse on whether to approve spending bills that would add more than $5 billion to support President Donald Trump’s push for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
The state’s four Democrat U.S. Representatives on Friday released a statement urging an end: “More than 15,000 Coloradans were not paid today because President Trump and Senate Republicans are using those federal employees as political pawns. This shutdown puts our country’s national security at risk and the livelihoods of hardworking men and women in jeopardy. Enough is enough.”
More: Colorado and the 2018-19 federal shutdown: What’s open, what’s not and what’s kind of open
According to Governing.com, 15,818 Coloradans who work for affected federal agencies have been without pay since the shutdown began. Another 21,387 Colorado workers are not affected because they are employed by federal agencies that were funded before the shutdown. Those include the Department of Education, Department of Labor and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The numbers also don’t include about 10,000 U.S. Postal Service workers in Colorado.
But many others are feeling the financial pain, such as as Bruce Davies, owner and operator of Tour Estes Park, which specializes in historic tours of the region. He said 90 percent of his customers want to tour Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is open to foot traffic but not vehicles since employees are on furlough and are not plowing the roads.
“People think it’s just the government but this affects a lot of people,” said Davies, who this week had two cancellations from customers from Australia and Texas uninterested in alternatives. “Government employees, particularly those who are salaried, are going to get their back pay. But most people, like myself who have private businesses that depend on the park, like the hotels, the restaurants and the shops, we’re not going to get back pay.”
For Colorado’s labor department, the unemployment claims will take between five to six weeks to kick in, which includes a one-week waiting period. If the shutdown is resolved before the five-week mark, then all the claims will be moot.
But if the state starts paying out unemployment, government workers will have to repay the money when the shutdown is over and they receive back pay. That’s when it will really get complicated as the agency would have to add the chore of collecting overpayments, Haavind said.
More from The Colorado Sun