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Hawaii working on glitches in jobless program application

The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has plowed through more of its unemployment filing backlog.

However, it’s still grappling with glitches related to the launch earlier this week of the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

The federal funds, which were approved as part of the CARES Act, offer support for the self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers and freelancers. The PUA program also might cover some people who are seeking part-time work, lack sufficient work history or otherwise don’t qualify for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits.

Some Hawaii residents trying to get PUA said they’ve encountered difficulties since DLIR began accepting pre-applications earlier this week on its website.

Applicants who applied for PUA on the state unemployment insurance website as previously instructed have been told that they have to file through the new online form. However, they say that the new website won’t take their applications while another is pending in the state system. That’s created more angst for some PUA applicants, who worry that processing of their PUA filing will take even longer than the May 15 target date given by the state.

DLIR spokesman William Kunstman said the state is aware of the glitch and is working through the PUA filing issue.

“Individuals whose sole of income is through self-employed activities can file for PUA without first being denied for UI,” Kunstman said. “However, individuals who have income from other employment, like being an employee of an employer that took taxes out of your paycheck, must file for regular UI and must be found ineligible for regular UI first before filing for PUA.”

Overall, DLIR is making strides. Between, March 1 and and April 26, it had only paid claims for 65,252 filings, less than a third of its unique unemployment insurance filings.

As of Thursday, the department had paid 81,507 or just over 45% of the claims that it had in process between April 1 and April 30. During that period, it had 229,142 unique filings, with 180,175 of those filings in process.

DLIR distributed more than $87.5 million in unemployment insurance benefits over the past week, including more than $47.3 million in plus up funds made available by the CARES Act. Applicants eligible for plus up funds temporarily get an extra $600 weekly benefit.

“The department was again able to deliver a record level of benefits in a week and for that I am tremendously grateful for our workers,” DLIR director Scott T. Murakami said in a statement. “We know that there are still many in our community who are suffering, and we are resolute in providing a greater level of relief as soon as possible.”

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