Anyone unemployed and fully understand the unemployment system?


I have a number of fairly specific questions about unemployment insurance in CO, and cannot for the life of me get through to anyone on the phone - I am losing my shit. None of my questions are addressed in the booklet or online.

In terms of doing freelance/contract type work, this is what I understand: If you do any kind of work, under 32 hours in a week, you don't request payment for that week. What happens if the amount I get for that week is way more what I normally get per week of unemployment insurance?

For example, let's say I get $500 per week from unemployment, but take a 1 week long freelance job that pays $3,000 for that week of work. Do I not request payment for just that week, or do I have to continue to not request payment for a total of 6? ($3,000/$500). I cannot get a clear answer from anyone.

Also, does anyone know if there's a ceiling for the amount of money made that will boot you out of the system? All I can find is that if you work a full time job (over 32 hours) you cannot claim unemployment anymore.
I just want to make sure I'm not committing fraud by taking a few small contract jobs and will report them correctly. Too bad the system's so fucked up that no one can get through to a helpline!

Thanks in advance. 

Jan 9, 13 12:36 am

most states will kick you off unemployment if you start freelancing. Apparently Colorado is not as dickish about it. I'd still be careful. I wouldn't report any income seeing as how the year only started. 

Jan 9, 13 12:52 am

There is a link here with an "earnings log" that they want you to use. Does that help? I never got through to them on the phone either while I was on unemployment.

Jan 9, 13 9:41 am

If  you do freelance, take it in cash and keep your mouth shut.

You don't wanna risk losing unemployment benefits, esp. when freelancing is not a steady gig.

Jan 9, 13 10:02 am

The work I'm being offered is through the state (a past client) so it's not under the table and I have to report it.  The thing I don't get is if I make a certain amount (say $5000) during 1 week of work, does that mean I cannot file a claim for just that week, or does it mean I cannot file a claim for 10 weeks, if I'm getting $500 a week?  Thanks for your help.

Jan 9, 13 10:57 am

There is a place in the claim system to report your wages, and your benefit amount will be determined by what you enter in that system. Are you asking if you should have to spread out the $5,000 you make over 10 weeks to cancel out your benefits, dollar for dollar?

Jan 9, 13 11:26 am

yes, I think that's what I'm asking.  If I make $5000 in one week of work, do they look at it that way - divide that amount by the weekly amount I get ($500) and then cancel out my benefits for those weeks (10 in this example).  Was just on hold for 2 hours, and finally gave up, grrrr

Jan 9, 13 11:40 am

jeff, think about this logically, if you make $5k in a week, what does that have to do with the next week, when you make $0? when i was unemployed, if i made $200, and my insurance typically paid $400, then i report the amount i made, and got unemployment for the amount i didnt get FOR THAT WEEK.

Jan 9, 13 11:52 am

It makes sense to me when you make under your weekly insurance pay out, but what I don't get is when you make over the amount for a particular week, does that amount get spread out over the course of a number of weeks afterwards (reducing payment by 1 dollar for each dollar you earn).  This statement is what confuses me:"You are allowed to work part-time (less than 32 hours a week) while you are collecting unemployment benefits. We can pay you part of your benefits for a week when you work part-time, but you must have earned less than your weekly benefit amount.

The law states that you can earn up to 25 percent of your weekly benefit amount and still get your full unemployment payment. After that, we must reduce your unemployment payment by one dollar for each dollar you earn"   Is what they are talking about only concerned with 1 week, and not any other following weeks? 

Jan 9, 13 12:45 pm

yep. in fact, if i was employed for one week, and earned $1000, then i would not apply for unemployment, then the next week i was not working, i would apply for benefits. you are not required to file for benefits every week, if lets say you were one of those folks that was really diligent, and ethical, and you went on vacation, then you might not apply for two weeks, or how ever long your vacay was.

remember, your time worked in that benefit week, is all that matters. not the amount of money earned. by time, i mean, time x $$ = less than benefits, file, if time x $$ = more than benefits, dont file.

Jan 9, 13 1:10 pm

I was in a similar situation in my state and could not get a straight answer either.  I finally went down to the office in person - which is the tactic I later employed through many discussions - and there I found people who immediately helped me, were super matter-of-fact and helpful, and who had the right answers.  I know I know - a good bureaucracy story!  HOWEVER it was a nightmare to try to reach anyone on the phone.

Fwiw, in my situation, I was working a part-time job that didn't pay enough to preclude benefits but which paid me only once per month - so that one paycheck looked big but it was for 4 weeks of work.  In person, IIRC, in state which is NOT CO, they had me divide it out by 4 and report the divided portion each week.  I think that way I received more benefits or something, I can't remember.

I CAN tell you that a year after I stopped receiving benefits (via getting a job), I was audited, informed that I had overdrawn each week, and had to spend months - literally months - battling it.  The letters I received actually threatened prison.  It took forever to resolve but it turned out in the end that my employer had reported that the amount I was earning per month, they reported as per week.  So you never know what can happen... the safest bet is to travel to your local office IN PERSON and get this resolved ASAP before you report anything.  It did turn out, btw, to be correct that I filed it as a divided up amount rather than monthly lump sum; when the state recalculated my benefits during the audit, that is how they calculated them.  They took the total amount I received and divided out over the weeks that the work was done.  However, every state is different and the moral of the story is to do it however they want you to, not how you think it should be.

Also, yes, there is a cap on the total amount of benefits you can receive.  In my state there is both a time cap AND an amount cap (which isn't very well advertised) - whichever is exceeded first gets you kicked out of the system.

Jan 9, 13 2:53 pm

I just read thru the Colorado handbook and found your answer right here, under CUBline questions:

If you worked during either week, you must enter hours and earnings. Report your gross wages (before taxes and other deductions). Earnings are reported for the week in which they were earned, regardless of when you are paid for the work. When reporting earnings, do not include cents; round up to the nearest whole-dollar amount.


your earnings in a given week = what you EARNED that week, NOT whatever check you received for whatever amount of work was done whenever

THAT MEANS, if you work 8 hours for the government on week 1, and 14 hours on week 2, and zero hours week 3, but you receive a paycheck week 3 for the hours you worked weeks 1 and 2, here's how you report it:

week 1:  report the gross monetary amount equal to your 8 hours of work

week 2:  report the gross monetary amount equal to your 14 hours of work

week 3:  report 0

Jan 9, 13 3:20 pm

FWIW, this is consistent with how my state had us report earnings as well.  (Although, looking through this, you guys in Colorado get screwed on your unemployment.  Those are some restrictive rules!!  How much is the highest you can get per month, out of curiosity? (the monthly max))

Jan 9, 13 3:21 pm

Really?  What makes them restrictive?  Not sure what the highest is per month, but I think it's what I get ($500 per week).Thanks for your help, I believe I'm good on the one issue about how to report income one week vs the next.  Now I'm concerned about getting booted out of the system because my gross amount earned over the course of a few months is too high...

Jan 9, 13 3:50 pm

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