(If you are a 99er, or if you know a 99er in CO that is willing to tell their story, please send me an email right away.)
It took me nearly two weeks, but after talking with four different sources, I was able to get a clear understanding about who is eligible to receive an additional 7 weeks of unemployment benefits under SEB2 [State Extended Benefits 2] and how the additional benefits will be distributed to eligible claimants. Please note that SEB2 is also referred to as HEB (High Emeregency Benefits) and is an extension of the 13 weeks paid under SEB for states that have a ‘consistently high’ unemployment rate (defined as 8 percent official unemployment for 3 consecutive months).
First, let me start with the bad news: for those of you that are in states with ‘high’ unemployment and have already collected the maximum 99 weeks of benefits, SEB2 will not help you. I’m very sorry to have to report this news to the huge number of ‘true 99ers’ who have exhausted all of their benefits.
Now, for the good news: If you are in a state that did not qualify to receive all 99 weeks of Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and (SEB) benefits you may qualify for the additional 7 weeks of SEB2 benefits, depending on your state’s unemployment rate and how your particular state wrote its laws.
For example, unemployed workers in Colorado were eligible to collect a maximum of 86 weeks of benefits (we are actually ’86ers’). This is because CO did not qualify for Tier 4 EUC benefits (6 weeks) and did not qualify for SEB2/HEB (7 weeks) benefits until June 30, 2010, when the State’s unemployment rate hit 8 percent for three consecutive months. Because of the way in which the Colorado legislature wrote its laws regarding SEB, those claimants who remain unemployed are now eligible to receive SEB2 [aka HEB].
Cher Haavind of the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment [CDLE] told me the following:
Depending on how a state wrote its laws, the State extended benefits may or may not be available. For Colorado, our claimants are qualified to receive benefits until the week ending 12/04/2010 at which time the program will end.
Claimants in Colorado who have exhausted the maximum of 86 weeks can begin collecting SEB2 as of July 10, 2010 (July 4-10, was the first full week in July and is the first week ANYONE will ‘eligible’ to receive and/or paid SEB2 benefits, regardless of when your SEB benefits ran out).
For those who had already exhausted their benefits (as of June 30), SEB2 benefits will be paid for weeks ending 7/10/2010 through 8/21/2010 at which time SEB2 will also be exhausted. This will bring the maximum number of weeks in Colorado to 93. If, and when, Colorado qualifies for Tier 4 benefits, the maximum will increase to 99 weeks for claimants who remain unemployed.
In order to collect SEB2, it is imperative that you make sure your claim is still active with the unemployment insurance division. If you have consistently made bi-weekly payment requests on Cubline (CDLE’s automated sytem) from the time your benefits ran out, your claim is still ‘active/open’ and you do not need to do anything; your claim will automatically be transferred to SEB2 and you will be paid for the weeks in you requested payment (ie: 7/10/2010 to the present).
However, if you have not been calling Cubline every two weeks to request payment (after you ran out of benefits), you will need to re-open your claim either online or by calling Customer Service at (303) 318-9000. You will not be paid any additional benefits unless and until you do so.
The CDLE has added a new, very helpful service center on their webiste called ‘My UI Claimant’, where you can get a great deal of information about the history and status of your claim.
I spoke with a very knowledgable staff person at the unemployment insurance office yesterday morning who told me that the CDLE is still working on programming their systems for the SEB2 phase, but that benefits could be paid as early as this week or (more likely), will distributed be next week.
If you are in a state that has not been eligible to recieve the maximum 99 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits, please keep informed about changes in your State’s monthly unemployment rate. If laws in your state are written to allow unemployed workers to collect SEB2 (or other Tiers of benefits if your state’s unemployment rate meets minimum requirements) you could be eligible to recieve additional benefits at some point in the future, if not now.
One last note: While Congress did not include the extra $25 per week paid under EUC, the CDLE has indicated that If you got the extra $25 on your claim for regular unemployment, you will get it on your federal extended benefits, your state extended benefits, and state extended benefits 2.
There are many unemployed workers who are now homeless. The UI staff person I spoke with on Tuesday did tell me that they are receiving calls from people that are living in shelters and using pay phones to contact the CDLE and inquire about the status of their UI claims. Please help spread the message that Colorado now qualifies for an additional 7 weeks of benefits to persons in shelters, at the food banks, libraries and human services departments throughout the State.
The CDLE won’t allow flyers to be posted in the workforce centers (amazing, given the stark reality that so many people are already or will soon be homeless through no fault of their own as a result of this crisis), but would like to start posting flyers in places where the unemployed, homeless workers can be reached. If you have any suggestions or ideas about this issue, please send me an email or visit my Facebook page to let me know and to help spread the word.