By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4) – Over Labor Day weekend, thousands of Coloradans will lose federal unemployment benefits. Standard UI benefits are only available for 26 weeks. But with the pandemic came enhanced benefits, providing a temporary boost. That boost is over on Sept. 4.

(credit: CBS)

Claimants on regular state unemployment will still receive their weekly benefits, but the extra $300 provided by Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation every week will end.

About 107,000 Coloradans are receiving either Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation along with Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.

Colorado currently has a 6.1% unemployment rate, higher than pre-pandemic numbers and the national average. Several industries are still struggling to find workers. According to the state job board there are over 124,000 open jobs around the state.

(credit: CBS)

“There was one point where we didn’t have an application for over three weeks, which is beyond abnormal for us. It’s almost unheard of,” said Josh Robinson, co-owner of Argonaut. “We picked up a lot of the bar and restaurant workers. Now that things are opening back up, they’re transitioning back out.”

Robinson says he could use 10 or 15 more workers, but the restaurant industry is short thousands. More than 90% of restaurants are having trouble hiring staff. A survey conducted by the Colorado Restaurant Association found that 65% of operators believe the primary hiring obstacle is that people prefer to remain on unemployment benefits.

“Some restaurateurs told me that their employees actually told them that. They were either going to make this much money working, or this much money staying home. It was financially lucrative for people to stay home,” said Sonia Riggs, President and CEO of Colorado Restaurant Association.

Riggs says some former restaurant workers found jobs in other industries. Owners are hopeful the end of federal benefits will lead to more applications.

“The bright side is when people do go back to work, they’re seeing higher wages and more benefits than they’ve ever seen before in this industry. I think it’s a great time to come back to the restaurant industry,” said Riggs.

(credit: CBS)

CDLE says claimants losing benefits are encouraged to visit the state’s jobs database at ConnectingColorado.com. Colorado’s local workforce centers also provide a variety of free services to assist job seekers, including career counseling and training, job listings, computer and internet access.

Tori Mason