Senator Steve Fenberg | Unemployment Insurance Q&As
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Unemployment Insurance Q&As

02 May Unemployment Insurance Q&As


Unemployment Insurance  Questions and Answers

We’ve received a lot of questions about unemployment benefits, especially from independent contractors, gig workers, and those who are self-employed. Although these workers are newly eligible for benefits under the CARES Act, the process has been especially confusing for workers who have income from both normal employment (W-2 employment) and from independent contract work (e.g. driving for Uber). I’ve been in conversations with the Department of Labor and Employment to get answers to some of the questions we’ve received. A quick summary is below.


State Unemployment Insurance is the traditional unemployment benefit administered by the state of Colorado that employees can access when they’ve become unemployed. It’s called “insurance” because a small deduction is taken out of your paycheck to pay into an insurance pool for when you need it. Click here to apply.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is the new unemployment benefit that was established in the CARES Act, which was recently passed by Congress (not the state legislature), in order to provide unemployment benefits for workers who are independent contractors, self-employed, or work in the gig economy like driving for Uber. This is now administered by the State of Colorado, but all of the rules and parameters were dictated by Congress in the CARES Act. Click here to apply.

What if I have both W2 AND contractor income?

If you are eligible to receive unemployment assistance through State UI, meaning that you have W-2 wages of at least $2,500 over the last 12 months, then you need to apply through the state UI system — not PUA. Even if you have both W-2 wages and an independent contractor income, these benefits will be calculated only on the actual reported (W-2) wages; your additional independent contractor income will not be taken into account for this calculation. Once your benefits for your W2 income have run out, then you can apply for PUA for your independent contractor income.

If you do not have more than $2,500 of reported W-2 wages over the last 12 months, and have income from gig/contract/self-employed work, then you should apply for the PUA. These unemployment benefits will be backdated as far back as March 29th.

How do I know if I’m eligible for State UI?

The current determining factors are:

  • Loss of job through lay off or furlough
  • lf your hours have been reduced, or you cannot work due to statewide closures
  • W-2 earnings of $2,500 or more over the 5 calendar quarters (currently back to January 1, 2019)
  • Eligible applicants cannot be working more than 32 hours per week and may not be making more than what the state would pay – roughly 55% of an average weekly paycheck.

Please note that some of the regular requirements for receiving benefits like maintaining an active job search have been waived in light of COVID-19. Please click here for additional information.

How do I know if I’m eligible for PUA?

You are eligible for PUA if you are an independent contractor or self-employed and don’t have $2,500 or more of W-2 earnings over the last 12 months. Others who can access PUA benefits include employees of religious organizations that do not pay unemployment, those diagnosed with COVID-19, those with families members diagnosed with COVID-19, those instructed by a health care provider to self-quarantine, primary caregivers for children/dependents currently unable to attend school, those scheduled to start work but no longer have a job offer due to COVID-19, and those who have become head of household due to a COVID-19-related death. Click here for more information.

Other things to know

  • Traditionally, state UI benefits lasted 26 weeks, however the CARES act extended those benefits to 39 weeks.
  • If you qualify for either the State UI or PUA, there is an additional $600/week payment through the federal relief package. You do not need to take any additional action to receive this benefit and it will be back dated as far back as March 29th. The $600/week will be deposited into your account.
  • On April 20, the Colorado Division of Unemployment Insurance hosted a virtual town hall discussing the proper steps to filing for unemployment insurance, and provided further information. Click here to view it in English and here to view in Spanish.
  • The Governor’s office and CDLE have created this website to assist those who have lost their jobs due to this pandemic.



Town Hall on Monday


Join me

for a

Virtual Town Hall: Conversation on meeting Boulder County’s housing needs

Monday, May 4th | 3:30p – 4:30pmRegistration link: click here
Facebook event: click here
Submit questions here

Panelists include Speaker K.C. Becker, Representative Hooton, Frank Alexander (Director of Boulder County Housing & Human Services), Chris Nelson (Attention Homes), Julie Van Domelen (Emergency Family Assistance Association), Isabel McDevitt (Bridge House), and myself.

We will be discussing available resources for all those in our districts, and will host a 30 minute Q&A session.



Governor Polis extends Executive Order about Evictions


Late Thursday, Gov. Polis signed several new Executive Orders, including EO D2020 051, which extended his previous Executive Order limiting evictions, foreclosures, and public utility disconnections for the next 30 days. Specifically, this EO mandates the following:

  • No evictions shall occur during the month of May, for both residential and commercial tenants, unless there is a public safety risk. A person testing positive for COVID-19 or his/her potential exposure to COVID-19 is not considered to pose a public safety risk.
  • Landlords and lenders are prohibited from charging late fees or penalties due to nonpayment of rent or mortgage during this period.
  • Landlords are directed to notify tenants in writing of the federal protections against evictions and foreclosures as provided in the CARES Act.
  • DOLA, CDLE and DORA should work with property owners and landlords to create model repayment agreements to allow tenants the time they need to repay rent.

Click here for additional resources and guidance regarding evictions, foreclosures and public utilities disconnections.



Resources for Domestic Violence Victims


This can be a very difficult time for those who are living in unsafe situations in their own homes. In addition, this pandemic increases isolation of those confronted with domestic violence. The Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN) has provided a list of resources for domestic violence survivors and their children.

  • The SPAN 24-hour Crisis & Information Line is fully operational at (303) 444-2424. Or email at
  • The SPAN Emergency Shelter will continue to provide safe refuge for domestic violence survivors and their children. Precautions have been taken to limit the spread of COVID19.
  • SPAN’s Outreach Counseling and Legal Advocacy services can be accessed by contacting the SPAN crisis line at (303) 444-2424.
  • SPAN’s Housing Team is providing rental assistance and delivering food boxes to our community-based housing clients.
  • Youth involved in SPAN’s Peers Building Justice (PBJ) Program are meeting through video conferencing and planning a youth-led virtual Open Mic event for May.




Stay Informed 
For general questions, call (303) 389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911. For written answers in English, Spanish (Español), Mandarin (普通话), and more, email

Para información sobre COVID19 en Español haga clic aquí (Proporcionado por Denver Health).



Ways to Donate & Volunteer



If you’d like to donate or volunteer in the fight against COVID-19, head to The Colorado COVID Relief Fund has already raised millions to help Coloradans impacted by the coronavirus. Also, private sector companies who want to partner with us on acquiring testing, critical constrained medical supplies, technology, or support services for people who are isolated, please go here to submit information.



As always, I will continue to update my Facebook and Twitter with key information, and let you know of any important developments.

If there is anything my office can do to help for now, please feel free to reach out. We will do everything we can to get you answers to questions or point you in the right direction.

Stay safe,