CBS4 Investigates Problems With State Unemployment System

Unemployment System 'Overwhelmed' -- Feds Say Colorado Below 'Acceptable Levels Of Performance'

Written by Brian Maass
DENVER (CBS4)- Colorado’s unemployment benefits system is “overwhelmed” according to its new director, with some claimants waiting on hold for as long as 3 hours to get questions answered.

“It’s unacceptable and we take it very seriously,” said Ellen Golombek, executive director of Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment.

Golombek took over at Labor and Employment in January. She said the average wait time for claimants calling in for information on their unemployment claim now stands at 1 hour and 29 minutes. She thinks it should be 15 minutes or less.

“It’s overwhelming. The system is overwhelmed,” Golombek said several times during the on camera interview. “The problem persists because we are in a recession, people are laid off and are losing their jobs,” she said.

Golombek said there are now 137,000 Coloradans with active unemployment claims, compared to 2008 when about 30,000 were on unemployment. Callers now are so frayed and on edge, operators at the Labor Department undergo training to handle suicidal callers. Golombek acknowledged that 15 employees just went through “specialized training” to handle despondent claimants.

CBS4 also found that Colorado is consistently finishing below federal minimum standards for benefits accuracy, quality and timeliness. The U.S. Department of Labor publishes quarterly audits of every state’s unemployment program.

Each state is measured in nine different categories or “Core Measures.” Colorado has been performing poorly for the last four years Golombek acknowledged.

“It is troubling and failure is not acceptable,” said Golombek.

For instance, in the 4th quarter of 2010, Colorado fell below minimum federal standards in five out of nine core measures. For “separation determination quality,” an acceptable score is 75 or above. Colorado received a score of 30, besting only North Carolina and the Virgin Islands. The category measures how the state labor department did on an initial eligibility decision- did the state gather all necessary documents, were the claimant and the employer contacted?

In another category, “non-separation determination quality,” the federal minimum standard is a 75. Colorado received a score of 51, the fifth worst in the country. This category measures how the Colorado Division of Labor and Employment did gathering information and following due process on items that affect weekly eligibility.

“We’ve started looking at these scores in the last four weeks and what we need to do to make them more acceptable,” said Golombek. “Where we are today is not acceptable and our goal is to move into the acceptable range.”

She says CDLE is hamstrung by Colorado’s complex unemployment laws, which she says are far more daunting than other states. On top of that, Golombek said the low scores can also be attributed to a department working with outdated technology, high staff turnover and staff allocation.

Golombek said ‘we are looking at systems, processes and technology’ to improve the federal scores.

By email, Cher Haavind with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said, “The UI program takes seriously the quarterly self audit results and has taken several steps on the heels of the last completed audit to address the scores:

  • We are hoping to reallocate staff and are more closely aligning staff roles and responsibilities with performance standards.
  • In January we implemented new performance measures and are using ongoing training of staff to improve processes.
  • In June, the UI program will add TALX to the Statewide Information Data Exchange. TALX and ADP (already in the data exchange) represent approximately 30 percent of the employers on unemployment insurance issues. Adding TALX will allow the program to more quickly and effectively gather information from employers and will benefit the separation determination process and positively impact the quality of the determination.

Additional Resources:
To view quarterly rankings of Colorado and other state’s performance on ‘core measures’ set up by the U.S. Department of Labor, go to this link, click on ‘all measures’, and enter a quarter you would like to view:

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment provided the following tips to avoid long telephone wait times:

Tips to Avoiding Long Wait Times

  • Use the Internet application for filing both, new claims and bi-weekly filings.
  • Call later in the week versus a Monday or Tuesday
  • If wanting to verify that CAP Card was mailed, wait 24 hours after filing, then go into the CUB System, under option 3 and check for the date of last warrant mailed.
  • Search the CDLE web site, claimant handbook and claim materials for answers prior to calling a representative.
  • Be pro-active in regard to getting the first CAP Card on a new claim. 1) Registered with a local workforce office 2) complete and return all required forms right away 3) complete bi-weekly filings on a regular schedule and verify that they took in the system. It takes about 3 to 5 weeks to get most claims processed. If last employer paid “other pay” it could postpone benefits.
  • And, last but not least, return any calls from the agents as soon as possible.
More from Investigates
  • grr

    what 3 hr wait ?? who wrote this story?? its a 3 hour wait for those that can get through the phone line to even be put on hold , all other are told to call back….

    • Mary

      Grr, you took my comment!!. Tried to send a letter. Tried to go there in person. Tried calling the director’s office. Last time I called, about 4:25 on a Friday, I did get through — only to be told I needed to reach a different department and I could not be either helped or transferred, but would have to call back. I asked which prompt got me to the correct department, explained that I selected the correct prompt and would she please try to help. That was three weeks ago, and I haven’t had the fortitude to call back since. I could go on and on. . .

    • Mark

      You are absolutely right!!!!! I stayed on the phone on the 12/23 for 3 hrs and 11 mins and then they dropped the call!! I have tried since 7:30 am today 12/27 and only the self-serving line is available. All you hear are excuses from the State about complex rules, turnover, outdated technology….at the end it is just incompetence. The sad part is that we can not vote them out of office.

    • Craig Buckley

      Golombek needs to be fired. Check this evidence out, as well as the rest of the postings at under dreamstonevictim.

  • Stacy

    I tried to call on several occasions only to be told all agents were busy. Finaly I tried at 7:28AM and the recording said they were not open yet. I redailed and got a busy signal. Redailed for a second time and was put on hold for 1 hour and 15 minutes. I don’t understand how I could be on hold for over an hour at 7:30AM.

  • Mike hillyard

    I waited until the battery went out on one phone. SO WHAT! If you are in demand, you wait or go somewhere else. Basic economics. Do not hire more emplyees to give money to people unseen or proof of ligidimate claim!

  • Robert

    Wow! The CLDE has had the same problems year after year after year and they keep saying they will take care of the problems while things grow worse. Unemployment in Colorado continues to grow and the CDLE is actively working to deny as many valid claims as possible. When will the CDLE ever address their multitude of failures? Never!

  • James

    Unemployed people committing suicide because the CDLE treats them as garbage. Good job CDLE!

  • Jennifer

    When will the state begin firing CDLE employees. Where else but in government can you keep your job when you are incompetent year after year. Perhaps they should let the unemployed operate the CDLE?

    • Mark

      Fire a State employee? Never. Only if they get arrested and it makes the papers

  • Jennifer

    WOOO HOOOO! We beat out the Virgin Islands! Way to go CDLE!

  • Linda

    Two years ago, I lost my job thru no fault of my own. I went thru the frustration with the calls (my cell phone drops calls after being on hold for an hour). I have yet to find work. I know the unemployment bureau has enough headaches, but there should be some sort of ‘no more unemployment benefits- help! what do I do now because the jobs ARE NOT out there, so I guess I’m moving into my car…..’ one-on-one assistance. This stress is not healthy.

  • Lisa

    I think the CDLE and the state are focused on denying valid claims rather than helping people survive. The recession is becoming worse in Colorado every month with unemployment rising and wages declining. The CDLE should be reorganized and the governor should start firing employees.

  • colo lost jobs

    They should work longer hours. If all those call in’s at 7:30 are swamping the system, make them work more than 40 hours. Simple, more hours to provide for the applicants should mean more people served. Keep the lines open longer at least two days a week. The unemployed don’t stop being out of work after 4:30. Stay open at CDLE till 10:30 p.m. on Tueday and Thursday and see what happens

  • Vonda Lundstrom

    I have been trying to get through the phone lines for over two weeks and haven’t even been able to get put on hold. I have one week left of benefits and all I am getting is minutes burned up on my cell phone. Now you have to imput information just to be told there is no agent available. The phones have been frustrating for the year and a half I have been unemployed and they haven’t realized that yet. And those poor reps have to pay for the frustrated people who finally get through when it’s upper management who haven’t had the insight to higher more people or find a better way to make the system work. I wonder if the supervisors take calls?

    • ableandavailable

      Stop in and see one of the UI reps now in the work force centers. You may have to wait to see them; but, you see a real, live person and get your problem solved.

  • ocviolet

    They are just trying to find ways to deny payment to eligible unemployed. This state sucks big time. Thieves in office. Hickenlooper is a boob.

  • Frustrated Jose

    I have been trying to get through for about 2 weeks and don’t matter what time you call it says” ALL AGENTS ARE BUSY” and then it hangs up on you. So what are you supposed to do then? My unemployment was stopped due to a combined filing with Montana, so I transferred to Montana and their system was GREAT, they took care of me quickly but now have to reopen claim in Colorado and Oh my goodness it’s a headache! My thing is they want us to look for work but if we are spending many hours/ days just trying to get through then when will we be able to look for work!

  • mark

    That report was a bunch of hog is atleast a 2hr wait on the phone and thats if you can get through.I have waited up too 6 hours.but what is a person to do,no other options,tried to email them and they dont respond to your emails.they need to update there website so that many more questions can be answered than what it is now.Maybe even have a town hall type meeting once a month in different locations to answer alot of folks questions and just maybe it will take a burden off the phones.

  • unemployed

    I agree with everyone that the 2-3 hour wait is for those lucky few that actually can get past the voice recording saying all lines are busy and try back later but have to say that I file online and skipped the phone and have had no issues and super fast service. I highly recommend the online filing system and signing up for CUB online which shows your current claim status, etc. You can even refile for benefits online without having to call. I know this doesn’t help those with no computer access but for those with computers I would try it. Thanks.

    • Michael Coppock

      The online computer side of this is great- I would agree, However there have been a few times since October when there have been issues that could ONLY be resolved by talking to an agent. I’ve experienced the 2 hour re-dial routine just to get into the 1-2 hour “On-Hold” status. The great/sad part is, the issue is something that they can usually resolve in less than 5 minutes… Why then does it take forever to get through? Oh that’s right, last year they hired more agents, only to lay them off a month or so later… AURG!!!

      • James

        They laid off employees they desperately needed! Government at its best.

  • Barb

    OF course it would help if CLDE had enough staff to handle the problems in the first place. They’re always underfunded and there are no lobbyists out there making sure this agency gets enough money…who’s going to make money from helping the unemployed?

  • Debra Gutierrez

    You reported on the unemployment system,but no-one ever said what they were going to do to solve the problem.I have been waiting 6 weeks for my benifits, still nothing. Every time i call and finilly do get to talk to someone, I get a differant story as to why it is taking so long. Well i”m about to get thrown out of my home and cann’t find a job. It just seemed to me that the director didn’t care, she just keep saying was unacceptable, not how she was going to fix the problem. Maybe the state should hire some of the unemployed to help fix the system. And what does the governor say about this problem with unemployment, is he doing anything to help with the problem?

    • ableandavailable

      Stop into one of the work force centers where UI reps are working now. You may have to wait to see one but they’re live and can fix stuff.

  • Katie

    I’m writing this after being on hold for now 55 minutes. Was on hold last week for over 2hr. When I finally spoke to someone they said my issue would be resolved on this past Monday. Guess what , it has not been resolved. So………. here I am on hold again. I have not been paid in 8 weeks. Something needs to be done!

    • Krissy

      I have not been paid in 8 weeks either. Thinking my benefits were done, I stopped requesting money (I knew I had at least another month). then I get a recording to file my next claim by Saturday or I will lose my benefits….I can’t get ahold of anyone as to ask them…what the hell is going on?

  • Sarah

    The CDLE simply does not care! They want to be the worst. They strive for imperfection. The CDLE has been hopeless to reach for the last 4 YEARS! The CDLE is only good at denying legitimate claims.

    • CC

      You’re totally right! My husband got laid off in 2009 and he got denying legitimate claims! He asked them but never get the answer from morons! LOL
      I’m his wife who is Japanese. He tried to find a job ASPS but fortunately, he had wait almost one year! I work at grocery store as a part timer, so my job doesn’t help to make a living. Do you have any idea a man had to take housekeeping job as temporary? He cried it out and so did I! But we had to survive at that time. Now he is working at delivery company. That is much better than housekeeping job, but our financial is still tough. We had to cut living cost, like TV. We don’t have TV for 2 years now. As I’m Japanese, I just don’t understand how come American companies keep having grossly incompetent employees.

  • Trish

    I was laid off in 2008 – CDLE has been very difficult to reach ever since I’ve been acquainted with them. Hold times of 3 hours is common, and when you do get a rep, they aren’t very helpful. I found a part time position (12-15 hrs/wk, take home $150-200) and thought Great! Now the unemployment benefit will stretch longer — WRONG! I was notified that due to an error in the CDLE office, I had to repay over $3000.00 – how am I supposed to do that on $200 a week?? They are taking me to court.

    • Susan

      I also was told I had to repay monies. I would get one letter stating I was approved and then another the very next day stating I was not approved, and still received payment. I can’t tell you how many conflicting letters I have received. I have sent in information (several times) disputing the decision and have not received anything back! I have no idea where it stands right now and I am thinking years down the road I will get a letter from some sudit saying I owe Colorado money. It is a joke!

  • SImon

    CBS4, now is the time for you to ask the CDLE the hard questions like: “Why don’t they care about the unemployed?”: “Why do the CDLE career employees not care about performance?”; and, “Why does Governor Hickenlooper allow a state agencies to be a national joke?”

  • Rob

    I have to call CUB line at 12:00 a.m. on Saturday ,even when I call at this time I have to keep hitting redial because CUB line is busy at midnight.
    I have been able to talk to agents after waiting for a minnumium of 2 hours. All of the agents say thay are under staffed and they were expecting more cut backs. I have left Mrs. Golombek at least 5 messages and she has never called back.
    I also filed a claim in eraly 2010 but was put back to work right away. Then I was laid off from the same job in Sept.2010 but CDLE would not start a new claim because I filed in March. I tried to get the CDLE to make my claim start in Sept. but all I got was a run around.
    Bottom line, the system is flawed and only governed by DUE PROCESS. That in it’s self means WE CAN”T CARE

  • Robert

    E-mail CBS4 and ask them to do a follow-up story.

  • Dee

    DITTO!! I was going to comment on “Lucky you to be put on hold!! I was prepared to wait a couple of hours on hold. Hasn’t happened yet!

  • Elizabeth Hamilton

    When I was unemployed last year, I had the unemployment office as a contact on my cell phone and called contstantly for a week without being able to get an answer. Finally I decided to call just before 5pm and planned to stay on hold all night until the next morning if possible. Finally my call was answered because the office does not close at 5pm and the other calls stopped coming in. I was so surprised when the call was answered that I broke into tears and all I could do was cry for the first few minutes. It was the most fustrating experience of my life to be able to get a call answered from unemployment. This system is broken. Rather than pay people to sit home, why doesn’t the State hire the unemployed to help others so at least the phone calls get answered?

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