COVID-19 unemployment information and resources for Colorado’s immigrant families

Written by: Erica Manoatl
Date Posted: April 10, 2020

Colorado’s immigrant families are among the groups experiencing the most severe economic disruptions related to COVID-19, due to both industry-specific unemployment and limited access to public programs. Nearly 1 in 4 Colorado children (about 285,000 children) live in immigrant families, where either the child or a parent was born in another country. The recent Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) passed by Congress have set aside trillions of dollars to deliver relief to American families—how much of this relief will be felt by Colorado’s large and vital immigrant community?

Last week we covered immigrant eligibility for testing and treatment for COVID-19 under new federal and state policies. This week we’re discussing changes to Colorado’s unemployment benefits system, including access for immigrant families and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

Immigrant eligibility for unemployment benefits in Colorado and where to file

Federal and state measures taken in the last few weeks have expanded unemployment benefits in several different ways, including the amount of benefits received, the types of workers who are eligible, and the length of time workers can receive benefits. Under the CARES act:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) will provide traditional workers (those who file W-2 forms) with an additional $600 on top of their usual calculated benefit,
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) will extend benefit eligibility to workers who are usually ineligible (including self-employed workers and freelance contractors),
  • and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) will allow states to provide benefits to unemployed workers for longer, from 26 to 39 weeks.

Colorado is working to update the state’s unemployment system so that these changes may be rolled out. As of this week, the system is only accepting claims from workers who are eligible for PUC—that is, workers with W-2s who lost work through no fault of their own. Continue to check ColoradoUI.gov to see when other types of claims are able to be filed.

Some immigrants are eligible for state unemployment benefits depending on the timeliness of their work authorization(s):

  • Immigrants who have a valid work authorization in the U.S. (in both the “base” and “benefits” periods) and lost work due to COVID-19 are eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Review this fact sheet from the National Employment Law Project and the National Immigration Law Project for more detailed information on eligibility and to further understand base and benefits periods. Eligible immigrants who fall into the category of traditional workers can begin filing claims now at gov..
  • DACA recipients are eligible for unemployment benefits, given they are authorized to work in both base and benefits periods. Last week, Governor Jared Polis requested that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security automatically extend the work authorizations of Colorado’s DACA recipients whose authorizations would expire this year. This extension would allow for DACA recipients to both continue working in critical positions (such as health care and support workers) and remain eligible for unemployment benefits should they lose work due to COVID-19.
  • Immigrants who do not have documentation are currently ineligible for unemployment benefits, and we will update you if eligibility in this area changes.
  • Finally, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced with the final implementation of the public charge rule that unemployment benefits are not considered public benefits for public charge determinations; importantly, this means that accessing unemployment benefits in Colorado will not count against immigrant families in public charge determinations.

Access the following resources for further information:

Erica Manoatl

About Erica Manoatl

Erica Manoatl is the Research Analyst for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. In this role, she supports the organization’s research priorities, data analysis, and writing in all issue areas. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from George Washington University and a Master of Public Health in Population and Family Health from Columbia University.