One topic that went noticeably unmentioned in Gov. Polis’s State of the State address last week was unemployment.
Colorado’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to the fourth highest in the nation following post-Thanksgiving restaurant shutdown orders from the governor.
The aging system has exacerbated pain for thousands of Coloradans since the onset of the pandemic, namely because very few IT professionals today are fluent in the 80s-era coding language used by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE).
As of last year, Colorado was only one of 12 states in the nation to use the antiquated COBOL coding language for unemployment benefits.
Polis shirked responsibility for the bureaucratic backlog at CDLE in an interview with 9 News last week, and instead blamed congressional inaction and the “legacy system” he “inherited” from his predecessors like John Hickenlooper.
JARED POLIS: Colorado had an outdated legacy system that we inherited. It would have taken a very long time to program in any new benefit … this is a large rebuild of the system that came at an inopportune time … To deploy the new system in the middle of a crisis, at least going forward we’ll have a functional system where new changes can be implemented rapidly and checks can fo out quickly. But the transition itself has caused a lot of difficulties.
9 NEWS: So it’s “technical” not “administrative,” nobody needs to be punished for this? It’s all technical glitches?
JARED POLIS: Well it’s not a glitch, it’s a transition from one system to the other.
It's one of the biggest issues facing Colorado right now, yet unemployment concerns didn't get a mention in Gov. Jared Polis' State of the State today. @Marshall9News sat down with Polis after his speech to discuss the unemployment system and vaccines
— Next with Kyle Clark (@nexton9news) February 18, 2021
The governor went on to argue it would have been worse to wait and upgrade the unemployment system after Congress passed a new COVID relief bill.
Polis did not specifically address why he waited to upgrade the system until after his post-Thanksgiving shutdown order sent jobless claims soaring, nor did he acknowledge national Democrats’ role in delaying COVID relief.
Earlier this month, the agency suspended public briefings to journalists amid public outrage at Polis for failing to pay unemployment benefits in a timely manner.
Countless people who have interacted with the unemployment agency, including journalists facing furlough, have been stymied by the train wreck at CDLE.
Incompetence at CDLE is so rampant they allowed their web domain to expire for several hours at the end of November.
Over the weekend, the state debuted the new unemployment benefits website, but it remains to be seen whether it will alleviate the backlog to help struggling Coloradans and their families.
Whoa! I wrote an unemployment story before I went on furlough, and I received dozens of emails from frustrated Coloradans who haven't receive UI payments in a long time. I'm working my way through and plan to respond to everyone. Y'all hang in there. There's more stories to do!
— Noelle Phillips (@Noelle_Phillips) February 22, 2021
Meanwhile, newly elected U.S. Sen. Hickenlooper was just appointed to chair a new Senate panel covering “science, technology, research and engineering.”
It is unclear whether Senate Democrats were aware of Hick’s monumental failure to exercise some common sense and upgrade Colorado’s outdated back-end tech at CDLE.