Question: On the Hawaii Labor Department website for unemployment benefits I could only find an application for salaried/hourly employees, not self-employed workers who are now eligible for benefits under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA). … I haven’t been able to reach the UI Division for assistance. I’m sure there are many others in my shoes. Help!
Answer: Independent contractors and the self-employed who are out of work should apply for unemployment insurance benefits via a new online form, https://huiclaims2020. hawaii.gov/initial-claim, said William Kunstman, a spokesman for Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.
Be sure you’re on the hawaii.gov address. This form collects sensitive personal information. There are numerous imposters floating around, according to the department.
This form also can be used by salaried or hourly employees seeking benefits. There’s no special application for gig workers, who previously didn’t qualify for unemployment insurance but who now may be covered under the PUA program, a provision of the U.S. CARES Act, passed amid the economic fallout of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“PUA provides benefits for eligible individuals who are self-employed, seeking part-time employment, or who otherwise would not qualify for UI benefits under state or federal law. To be eligible, among other requirements, individuals must demonstrate that they are otherwise able to work and available for work within the meaning of applicable state law, except that they are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because of COVID-19 related reasons,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Once deemed eligible, the person must confirm their status on a weekly basis. For applicants already deemed eligible, a reminder: Don’t certify your claim until the Sunday after the workweek. For March 29 through April 4, log on to do so beginning today.
Q: I was furloughed, not laid off. Can I apply for unemployment? If yes, do I have to look for three jobs weekly? My boss wants to hire us back when he can reopen. I loved my job and hope to return to it.
A: Yes, you can apply for unemployment benefits; you don’t have to be formally laid off to qualify. No, you don’t have to look for a new job, nor do others in the same boat, even if they have no hope of being recalled to their old one. The usual requirement to seek at least three jobs weekly while receiving unemployment benefits has been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented job losses, according to the department.
On this point, other readers pointed out that although the rule has been waived, the electronic certification form still asks whether the person sought employment the previous week. They doubted their claim would be certified if they answered no, so they marked yes. That’s fine, the department says. “When certifying your unemployment claim weekly you can answer ‘yes’ when responding to whether you looked for three jobs even if you didn’t. It will not interfere with the processing of your claim,” the DLIR said on Twitter Friday.
Answering ‘no’ is fine too, Kunstman said. “If they answer ‘no’ a pop-up warning box may come up, but it also does not stop the claim.”
State unemployment offices are closed to in-person visits, but information is available by phone or email, although response times may be delayed. Here is contact information from the department’s website, labor.hawaii.gov.
>> HUI password reset: (833) 901-2272
>> Unemployment insurance phone appointments: (833) 901-2275
>> Oahu claims office: firstname.lastname@example.org
>> Hilo claims office: email@example.com
>> Kona claims office: firstname.lastname@example.org
>> Maui claims office: email@example.com
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.