The number of Coloradans receiving unemployment benefits continues to decline as, presumably, people return to work.
That doesn’t mean unemployment woes have vanished. Gaining steam in my inbox this week were people who said they were notified they had been paid too much and now must return money to the state. (More on overpayments below.)
Approximately 209,232 people made a continued claim for the week ending April 10, down from 218,508 the week before. The state Department of Labor and Employment credited the decline to ID.me, the technology that everyone on unemployment must use to verify their identity before getting paid.
Silly me. I assumed the decline was due to the logjam created as users tried to get their IDs verified so they went unpaid. But no.
“Contrary to what’s being portrayed publicly, we believe the decrease … is due to the amount of fraudulent activity happening before we implemented the ID.me requirement,” said Jessica Hudgins Smith, spokeswoman with the Division of Unemployment Insurance, in an email. “Most continued claimants we’ve reached out to haven’t even attempted to verify their identities through ID.me.”
(If you haven’t already, you can start that process at cdle.colorado.gov/idme.)
At one point, CDLE was flagging 90% of claims for potential fraud, which prevents both scammers and legitimate users from getting paid. That’s now down to 60-70% of claims, which is still a lot, she said.
“Our ID.me partners also utilize threat intel monitoring tactics, and have discovered that criminals are now targeting states that are not requiring ID.me,” she added. “This alone tells us that ID.me is working and helping us achieve our goal of stopping and preventing fraud.”
For those counting: Only 11.7% of users who received the IDme link to verify their IDs actually go through with it.
Of those, roughly 80% of legitimate users who attempt to verify themselves on the IDme tool pass. And about 14% are directed to a “Trusted Referee,” which requires a video chat to confirm one’s ID.
This is the part that is taking hours for some people, though one woman who abandoned the 5+ hour wait for a video confirmation said she just restarted the process from a different location and was confirmed within minutes.
→ More tips on getting approved on IDme: Here and here and here
→ Victim of unemployment fraud? You must fill out this form to let the Department of Labor know to flag accounts connected to your personal information. And yes, the form asks for a Social Security number. To the reader who said he refused to share his SSN digitally but wanted to give it to a customer service stranger (who wouldn’t take it), CDLE uses technology from FormAssembly to submit a secure form over an encrypted transmission. Sharing your SSN will help the state quickly find accounts using that same number (it’s already out there anyway).
→ Temp work: COResponds is a newish grant for the state’s workforce centers that is helping unemployed workers find a temporary job as part of the disaster-relief recovery. >> Check it out
Job source: Economic development and tech jobs
Even during a global pandemic, a handful of companies have moved to Colorado. The most notable might be Palantir Technologies, a secretive and controversial data-mining company.
This month, a few more businesses made their moves known through the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade. And when the announcement comes from OEDIT, that means the jobs must pay at least the average annual wage for the county where the business will operate.
At Fluid Truck, which agreed to stay in Colorado and add 1,483 new jobs over the next eight years, the average annual salary will be $163,677.
In return, the company could qualify for special state job-growth incentives of $16.4 million in tax credits. They’ve got to provide the jobs first, of course.
Fluid got its start in Denver circa 2016 as an item-sharing company. It’s now a truck-sharing company operating in more than 30 markets. Rent a truck or list your own to make extra cash.
There’s a handful of engineering, IT, marketing and sales jobs available on Fluid’s job page.
→ Vizio, the HDTV company based in Irvine, California, picked the Cherry Creek neighborhood of Denver to open a new engineering and innovation center. It plans to hire more than 100 people by the end of 2022. No state incentives were offered, according to OEDIT. The company currently has 43 openings in Denver. >> JOBS
→ GadellNet Consulting Services, an IT consulting firm, acquired CNT Group and plans to add 56 new jobs with an average annual wage of $77,393. If it succeeds, it can qualify for $484,628 in state job-growth tax incentives. >> JOBS
→ Fidelity Investments, already in Colorado, plans to hire 375 new employees in the next six months. No state incentives were included. >> JOBS
→ Nextworld, an enterprise software company, is expanding its Greenwood Village campus by 300 employees over eight years. The average annual wage is $148,960 and makes the firm eligible for up to $2.5 million in state tax credits. >> JOBS
Sick leave available to get vaccinated
Now that nearly all Coloradans are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination, don’t fret if you found an appointment but can’t afford to miss work. The state has got you covered with the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act.
Employers must offer paid sick leave to employees who feel ill, which includes recovering from vaccine side effects, according to the Department of Labor.
The rule provides one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked or up to 48 hours per year — but up to 80 hours in COVID-related sick leave in 2021. Smaller businesses with fewer than 15 employees are exempt from some elements of the Workplaces Act, but in a public health emergency, all employers, regardless of size, must adhere to the law.
EMPLOYER TAX CREDIT: President Joe Biden this week announced tax credits to offset employer costs to provide sick leave for workers needing a vaccination or to recover from one. This would apply to employers with fewer than 500 workers for up to 80 hours per employee. The tax credit would cover $511 per day of sick leave offered between April 1 to Sept. 30.
To claim the credit, employers must report it to the IRS on Form 941. >> DETAILS
→ Walk-in COVID-19 vaccine clinics now open in Pueblo, Loveland and Denver >> DETAILS
Money for restaurants, entertainment venues
The Small Business Administration has struggled to roll out federal relief aid to small businesses ever since the Paycheck Protection Program launched in April 2020. But a slew of announcements this week indicate that hiccups have been resolved.
The aid program aimed at entertainment venues may finally be up and running on Saturday. The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, which ran into technical problems earlier this month when it opened the application portal, has been tested and fixed, said the SBA. It reopens at 10:30 a.m. MT today (April 24).
Grants of up to 45% of a company’s 2019 gross earnings or up to $10 million are available to eligible businesses in operation on Jan. 1, 2019. Newer venues have a different calculation. >> APPLY
RESTAURANTS, BARS, FOOD
SBA also this week tapped four point-of-sale tech companies (Clover, NCR Corp., Square and Toast) to help it provide grants to restaurants as part of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which will pay restaurants funding “equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss” or up to $5 million per location, says the SBA.
This applies to restaurants, food trucks, caterers, bars, lounges or other businesses forced to close in-person dining services during coronavirus restrictions. They must still be operating (or temporarily closed) and show proof that at least 33% of their 2019 gross receipts were from on-site sales. Money from Paycheck Protection loans will reduce the size of the grant.
Newer restaurants are still eligible but must provide documentation of expenses.
The ineligible? Publicly-traded companies, businesses that are permanently closed or have filed for bankruptcy and businesses getting a Shuttered Venues grant or have a pending application for one.
The money does not have to be paid back as long as it’s used by March 11, 2023 to pay employees, mortgage or rent, debt, utility bills, construction of outdoor seating, and even food and beverage expenses.
The program is expected to start taking applications later this month or in early May. Businesses should use one of the four tech companies to apply directly. For example, Square said its customers can apply on their online Square Dashboard. The SBA also will take applications at restaurants.sba.gov.
Here’s a link to the program guidelines.
→ The Colorado Restaurant Association and Sen. John Hickenlooper hosted a webinar on the program about what it takes to apply. >> WATCH
→ Forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans are still available to small businesses but funding is running out. As of April 18, roughly $50 billion of the available $292 billion remained. Approximately 70,855 small businesses in Colorado have been approved for $4.4 billion this year. The SBA expects funds to run out before PPP closes May 31. >> DETAILS
→ Economic Injury Disaster Loans, the low-interest loans that must be repaid, are also still available. What’s new? This week, the SBA modified the “Targeted EIDL Advance,” to offer an additional $5,000 to the hardest hit small businesses in low-income communities. >> DETAILS
The Department of Labor said it is investigating whether a new overpayment issue is impacting a new lot of new people, said Smith, a department spokeswoman.
She said it could be due to how the unemployment program is set up. The MyUI+ Manage Debt section has an Overpayment History area that she said “may be causing any overpayment concerns and/or confusion.”
She’d like examples — and while it’s great for readers to share their problem with me, if I can’t get your real information, it’s difficult for me to help you. So…
→ SHARE: Fill out this Google form to share your issue and help me reduce the back and forth I must do to determine what happened to you.
Unemployment overpayments isn’t new. Thousands of gig workers eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance were hit last year because the application form was confusing. Applicants were supposed to note their net income, not total income. The state decided to forgive those cases.
That’s still the case, Smith said.
“The majority of overpayments that are not due to the fault of the claimant, and resulted from late processing and/or adjudication will be written off,” she said.
But be wary of getting the issue corrected if you actually were overpaid. Misreporting income, working while claiming benefits, an unwanted appeals decision could all lead to the state asking for the money back. And if your case involves fraudulent activity, there will be no forgiveness — plus penalties and interest will be added.
“We will be attempting to recover overpayments we know were due to fraudulent activity with penalties and interest. If an overpayment is determined to be accurate, we collect these funds through future benefit offsets, negotiated repayment plans and tax return interceptions,” she said.
→ CDLE is hiring a project coordinator. >> Apply
That’s it for this week. If you’ve got something to share, let me know. And don’t forget, if it’s related to unemployment, please clarify what type of unemployment you’re on and be ready for follow up questions. ~tamara
What’s Working is a Colorado Sun column for readers navigating today’s economy. Read the archive, send a message and don’t miss the next one. Get this free newsletter in your inbox by signing up at coloradosun.com/getww
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