100 lose jobless benefits

Long-term aid cut under new budget

About 100 people in Montezuma County lost their long-term unemployment benefits Dec. 28 after the new federal budget passed.

“Since these claimants have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks, it is safe to say they have come to rely on these extended benefits and they will feel the impact,” said Cher Roybal Haavind, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Unemployed Coloradans are now only eligible for 26 weeks of unemployment benefits instead of 63 weeks.

There were 56 people in the county who were very close to becoming eligible for the extended benefits that are no longer available.

Some people may turn to the day labor center when their benefits run out.

Anna Bousquet, the manager of the Cortez Day Labor Center, said these cuts may have more of an impact in this area because there are fewer jobs available than in larger cities.

“You don’t want families to end up hurting and they do,” she said.

As of November, there were 895 people unemployed in Montezuma County, according to the state.

The extended benefits were meant to be a short-term solution in 2008 provided by the federal government.

As Colorado’s unemployment rate gradually rose during the recession, the federal government paid unemployment benefits for longer amounts of time. An unemployed person could receive 99 weeks of benefits when the unemployment rate peaked.

There is a bill pending in Congress that would reinstate federally funded unemployment benefits for three months.

However, because the economy has improved in Colorado, we would not return to the peak length of unemployment benefits. The Colorado unemployment rate fell to 6.5 percent in November after 4,200 Coloradans reported finding jobs.

In Montezuma County, the unemployment rate was slightly higher, at 7.1 percent.