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Hawaii News | Kokua Line

Kokua Line: State senator urges emergency action to assist jobless Hawaii residents

Question: The labor department says it doubled capacity for unemployment claim certifications, but I still can’t get into the system, no matter how many times or when I try. I try all day, every day! It’s overloaded. I’m five weeks behind on certifying — that means no pay! I can’t go on like this. I have bills overdue and now we are into another month’s rent. … Can’t they suspend the certification requirement while they’re so backed up? People need to get their money!

Answer: Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations says that certification requirements cannot be suspended. Applicants must verify on a weekly or biweekly basis (depending on status) that they remain eligible for Unemployment Insurance, even if they haven’t received any payments yet, it says.

One example of varying eligibility would be an applicant who was furloughed and approved for Unemployment Insurance, but whose employer subsequently received a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the federal government. This program was designed to help cover payroll costs at small businesses disrupted by the pandemic. Such an applicant would be eligible for UI for the weeks they went unpaid, but not once their employer resumed paying them, even if they weren’t actually working.

Although the DLIR is certifying more claims, the online system remains backlogged, as you know. The DLIR tells people to keep trying to log in and to backdate certifications once they achieve access. So you should eventually receive all the money you’re due, although this may be little solace when you’ve got no money coming in and bills to pay now.

You are one of countless readers who still await relief, despite losing your job many weeks ago. State Sen. Laura Thielen says the situation is untenable. She wants the state to start paying backlogged applicants $600 a week from other funds, outside DLIR’s fiduciary system. She says these payments could be repaid from federal funds, which the state would retain once the applicant’s UI or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claim is finally processed.

“Anyone getting benefits is guaranteed to have at least $600/week from the federal programs, so the state would be 100% reimbursed for interim payments for all applicants who are approved for UI or PUA,” Thielen wrote on her Facebook page. She also discussed the plan on Wednesday’s episode of “Live at the Legislature,” viewable at

We asked the DLIR last week about the feasibility of this idea, but received no response.

Stimulus update

The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday said that economic impact payments issued to dead people should be returned to the IRS immediately, by mail or money order, even if the stimulus money was received by direct deposit.

“Return the entire payment unless the payment was made to joint filers and one spouse had not died before receipt of the payment, in which case, you only need to return the portion of the payment made on account of the decedent. This amount will be $1,200 unless adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000,” the IRS said in an FAQ updated on its website Wednesday.

Anyone who received a payment for a decedent should follow these instructions:

>> If the payment came as a paper check that you still possess:

Write “Void” in the endorsement section on the back of the check. Mail the voided Treasury check to the appropriate IRS location (address below). Don’t staple, bend or paper clip the check. Include a brief note stating the reason for returning the check.

>> If the payment was a paper check that you have cashed, or if the payment was a direct deposit:

Submit a personal check or money order to the appropriate IRS location (address below). Make the check or money order payable to “U.S. Treasury.” Write “2020EIP” and the EIP recipient’s taxpayer identification number (Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number) on the check. Include a brief note stating the reason for returning the EIP.

For people living in Hawaii, the IRS mailing address to use is: Fresno Refund Inquiry Unit, 5045 E Butler Ave., Mail Stop B2007, Fresno, CA 93888.

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

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