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Hawaii’s high unemployment claims could start to drop

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    HONOLULU (KITV) — Frustration grows, as does the number of Hawaii’s unemployment claims.

It has been a common complaint about Hawaii’s unemployment system since the start of the pandemic: After submitting claims, residents have been left waiting – sometimes for months.

“All of the weeks say pending. I have tried every day since June to call,” said Kaneohe resident Anela Tory.

Tory used to work at the Pacific Aviation Museum, but that came to an end because of COVID closures.

“I was the second round of employees to be laid off in May. I filed for unemployment and received the first two checks then they just stopped coming.”

Her claim is just one of more than 10,000 claims still waiting for the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to take action.
Some claims go back even further than May. The longer the wait, the higher the frustration for many Hawaii residents.

“If we knew a time perhaps, how long it would be or are they working on it? If they just let us know how claims are processed…is it by alphabetical order?”

Frustration isn’t the only thing rising, so are Tory’s bills.

“I am 12 weeks now with no paycheck, going into debt slowly but surely.”

According to the DLIR spokesperson, the vast majority of those claims waiting to be processed are due to job separation issues and require a claims examiner to look more closely at them — which takes more time.

Tory said she did get through to someone on the phone once, but that worker wasn’t much help.

“She said they were inundated with claims and I should be lucky to have received two checks. If they are so shorthanded, can we not volunteer? I’d like to volunteer, I have a degree, I am sure I can help process.”

According to DLIR, the department is now procuring a virtual call center, that will be staffed by the crew that helped North Carolina with its unemployment backlog.
That call center will also have longer hours to handle more claims.

In the meantime, the state started up the Lost Wages Assistance program, allowing eligible residents $300 dollars a week, if their unemployment or reduction in hours was caused by COVID 19.

Money that could help Tory and many others suffering financially from this pandemic.

“It is not just about receiving the check. It is about putting money back into the state of Hawaii. Helping out our businesses here, helping out our economy here.”

Originally there was five weeks of funding for the Lost Wages Assistance program but $70 million more was just released by the federal government. That will bump up the assistance to six weeks of financial support – for those who are eligible.

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