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Thursday, April 24, 2014         

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Some in isles could run out of federal jobless benefits

By Alan Yonan Jr.

POSTED:



State officials cautioned yesterday that federally funded extended unemployment benefits will run out for some of Hawaii's jobless unless Congress takes action this week.

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program that provides up to 47 additional weeks of benefits on top of 26 weeks of regular state unemployment insurance payments is set to expire Nov. 30.

If Congress doesn't extend the program, then residents who exhaust their regular benefits after Saturday will not qualify to receive EUC benefits, according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

The number of weeks of emergency benefits varies from state to state based on the unemployment rate.

Emergency unemployment compensation benefits in Hawaii are paid out in a series of three tiers. When the program ends, claimants will be allowed to continue claiming benefits through the duration of their existing tier but won't be able to advance to the next tier.

Tier 1 provides 20 additional weeks of benefits; Tier 2, 14 weeks; and Tier 3, 13 weeks. There are about 500 claimants who progress from one tier to the next each week, the department said.

"With over $416 million in EUC benefits issued in Hawaii since 2008, the federal extended unemployment compensation supplemented incomes of our jobless population and reduced the impact of the rising unemployment rate due to the national recession," said Pearl Imada Iboshi, department director.

Since it started in July 2008, and through subsequent extensions enacted by Congress, the EUC program has assisted more than 48,000 unemployed residents in Hawaii.

Currently, there are 10,000 residents who file for benefits weekly under the EUC program, according to department, and about 8,800 residents have exhausted all benefits since the program began.

Hawaii's unemployment rate edged down to 6.3 percent in September from 6.4 percent in August, reflecting a continued gradual improvement in the state's labor market.

The jobless rate was the sixth lowest in the country and was substantially below the national rate, which was unchanged at 9.6 percent in September.






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