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Kokua Line: Guide on Hawaii tax department’s website simplifies application for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

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                                Anyone in Hawaii who plans to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) should first read the tutorial at <a href="http://www.tax.hawaii.gov/PUA/" target="_blank">tax.hawaii.gov/PUA</a>, which explains how to fill out the application step by step.

    COURTESY PHOTO

    Anyone in Hawaii who plans to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) should first read the tutorial at tax.hawaii.gov/PUA, which explains how to fill out the application step by step.

Question: I was denied for unemployment, so I guess I apply for PUA now. How much would that be, do you know? And where do I do that?

Answer: We strongly encourage anyone in Hawaii who plans to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to first read the tutorial at tax.hawaii.gov/PUA, which explains how to fill out the application step by step. Once on this website, click on “PUA Application” in the left column and scroll down to read the guide before filling out the form.

Hawaii’s Department of Taxation says the application can be completed in less than 30 minutes if an applicant has all the required information at hand, and that applications filled out completely and accurately could receive status notifications the same day. Although pre-applications began last week, processing isn’t expected to begin until about May 15, state officials said previously.

Now, returning to your questions, yes, many people out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic who were denied regular unemployment insurance benefits should be eligible for PUA. This federal program is for “the self-employed (e.g. independent contractors, gig economy workers, and workers for certain religious entities), those seeking part-time employment, individuals lacking sufficient work history, and those who otherwise do not qualify for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits,” according to the DOTAX website.

PUA’s weekly benefit ranges from $263 to $648 a week, plus $600 a week from a separate federal program available to PUA beneficiaries. So, assuming that you are eligible for PUA, you would receive $863 to $1,248 a week.

As we explained in Sunday’s column, many people who are mainly self-­employed must navigate the standard UI system first. People can’t choose to apply for PUA because they expect a higher benefit, both DOTAX and the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations say on their websites.

Anyone who earned more than $130 in calendar year 2019 from an employer (or employers) who took taxes out of their paycheck must first apply for regular unemployment insurance benefits, DOTAX says.

However, people in your situation may proceed with the PUA application because you lost your job in the pandemic, applied for standard UI and did not qualify or were denied benefits, it says.

Q: I got my initial unemployment claim submitted OK, but I have the same problem you wrote about Thursday, never being able to log in to certify that I remain unemployed (808ne.ws/57kokua). Why can’t they do it in alphabetical order like a million people have suggested?

A: The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has taken the suggestion to heart and is encouraging people to try to certify their unemployment claims on designated days, starting Monday.

Claimants with last names starting with A through G should log in on Mondays, last names H through O on Tuesdays and last names P through Z on Wednesdays, DLIR Director Scott Mura­kami said.

Thursdays through Sundays will be for those who miss their designated day, including because they were unable to access the busy system.

The computerized certification system operates Mondays through Fridays from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and on weekends and holidays from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m, according to the DLIR website.

Claimants must try to certify their UI claims weekly or biweekly, depending on their status. Claimants unable to certify in a timely manner due to the system overload may backdate certifications once they are able to log on, DLIR says.

For more information, see detailed instructions on the DLIR website, at 808ne.ws/uiguide.


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 kokualine@staradvertiser.com.


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