Sep 3, 2021 - Politics

What the end of pandemic unemployment aid means in Colorado

Illustration of woman struggling under the weight of crumbling dollar sign

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

By the end of the week, more than 100,000 Colorado residents will lose the extra federal unemployment benefits that helped them pay bills during the pandemic.

What's happening: The $300 weekly unemployment benefits that about 116,000 people in Colorado currently receive expire after Sept. 4.

In addition, two programs that provide payments to 87,000 people will end at the same time:

  • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance fund for self-employed and gig workers
  • And the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program that extended benefits to those who ran out of state aid

Why it matters: The expirations come as the Delta variant rages and once again makes front-line jobs risky even for those who are vaccinated.

Context: In at least 26 other states, political leaders ended the extra unemployment benefits in June and July in an attempt to woo people back to the workplace. Colorado held firm to the original Sept. 4 expiration date, but offered cash incentives to workers who found jobs in May and June.

The intrigue: Gov. Jared Polis recently said he supported diverting federal unemployment aid from people without jobs, but accepted the money because it was better for the state economy to take the funds rather than leave cash on the table.

  • "We would have loved in Colorado to use that money in some other way," he recently told a conservative conference. "It could have been better used for almost anything: infrastructure investments, tax cuts."

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