Bad To Worse? Staff Cuts Coming For Colorado Dept. Of Labor

Written by Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4)- The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, already overwhelmed with unemployment claims, is preparing to lay off anywhere from 30 to 100 employees.

“It’s going to make things unbearable- they’re already difficult but they’d be unbearable,” said Chris Cartwright of Longmont, who has been on unemployment since he was laid off in February.

Cartwright said the times he has had to call the CDLE for assistance with his unemployment claims, he’s been on hold for about two hours waiting to speak to a live person.

“The hold time is already just too long,” said Cartwright.

Many others of the state’s 137,000 jobless have far worse horror stories saying they have to dial for hours just to get on hold. Could things get worse?

In a July 7 email to CDLE employees, Executive Director Ellen Golombek wrote, “our current budget situation will likely necessitate staff reductions in the Unemployment Insurance section…”

Some federal funding for CDLE jobs has run out, necessitating staff cuts.

On July 6, Golombek wrote to the State Personnel Board informing them of the pending layoffs.

“As we plan for staff reductions in the Unemployment Insurance section, there is a realization that those reductions could have negative unintended consequences affecting customer service throughout the Department. The fact is that reductions will create a challenge this Department, and in particular, this division has not seen in over 20 years,” wrote Golombek.

Cher Haavind, a spokesperson for the Department, said the number of terminations is not yet set in stone and is just a projection at this point. She said longer waits on the phone and more frustration for unemployment claimants is not a certainty.

“It would be premature to draw that conclusion,” said Haavind.

She said the department would try to make many of the cuts to middle and high level managers and leave front line personnel intact.

Haavind said, “We are currently conducting a top-down review of every component of the Colorado’s Unemployment Insurance Program, identifying ways to improve customer service and enhance program efficiencies. We realize our systems need improvement and this review will help us achieve those efficiencies. No decisions have yet been made regarding staffing levels. We were given temporary funding to staff up during the recession and as it is fully expended, we must carefully consider how many staffing cuts need to be made and in which areas while we minimize service impacts.”
In an April, 2011 interview, well before the cuts were known, Executive Director Golombek, said the department was running on fumes.

“It’s overwhelming. The system is overwhelmed,” explained Golombek.

She said in 2008 there were 30,000 Coloradans with active unemployment claims, but due to the economic downturn, that number grew to 137,000 this year.

On Wednesday, Chris Cartwright described his job search by saying, ‘It’s a challenge’.

The same can be said of the newest hurdles facing CDLE.

DOCUMENTS: CDLE employee email and letter sent to State Personnel Board

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