comscore Kokua Line: PUA processing begins Friday; next up is upgrade for extended benefits | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Hawaii News | Kokua Line

Kokua Line: PUA processing begins Friday; next up is upgrade for extended benefits

Question: Do you have any updates on PUA? Also, what about the PEUC? Are they ever going to extend that in Hawaii? There’s been almost no information.

Answer: The state expects to begin processing applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance on Friday, said Bill Kunstman, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

If all goes well, “clean” applications in the initial batch should be paid by about five days later, he said Wednesday.

A clean claim is one that is completely and accurately filled out and raises no questions about eligibility.

The state began accepting pre-applications at pua.hawaii.gov on April 27, warning that processing wouldn’t begin right away.

PUA is a new, temporary federal program created under the auspices of the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which was signed into law on March 27.

PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to people who don’t qualify for standard unemployment insurance compensation or extended benefits. Potential applicants include 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 others.

The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations says that with a few exceptions, individuals cannot apply for PUA until after they have applied for and been denied standard UI.

In Hawaii, the amount a person may receive from PUA ranges from $263 to $648 week, the same as someone receiving standard UI. In addition, people in either system (UI or PUA) are eligible for an extra $600 a week under a different CARES Act program, called Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, commonly known as the federal plus-up.

Lastly, you also asked about the PEUC, which stands for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. This provision of the CARES Act adds up to 13 weeks of unemployment benefits for individuals who have exhausted UI benefits, according to the DLIR. Standard UI pays for 26 weeks in Hawaii, so this extension would make it last up to 39 weeks, the same maximum as for a PUA beneficiary, the department says.

Yes, the state is trying to streamline access to this new benefit, Kunstman said.

“We are in the process of automating the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program (PEUC) so that the claimants will not have to do anything other than continue to file their weekly/biweekly certifications. We did prioritize other information technology solutions over PEUC, including the web services for certifications, log-in, security and other items to divert traffic from the mainframe. We are targeting early next week for the implementation of that automated solution for PEUC,” he said Wednesday.

By weekly or biweekly certifications, Kunstman is referring to the requirement that claimants verify on a regular basis that they remain eligible for benefits. The technological solutions he mentioned aim to improve efficiency on an antiquated unemployment system that is struggling to handle huge demand. According to recent filings, more than a third of Hawaii’s labor force is out of work due to the state’s coronavirus shutdown.

Auwe

Las Vegas is going to reopen the casinos. When that happens, you think local people are going to stay home? Nah, we going Vegas. What happens when we get home? They lock us up? The point is: Don’t arrest the tourists — that’s us in Vegas. Focus on how they can come here safely. We need to go back to work. — A reader

(Note: As of deadline Wednesday, only plans, not a date, have been announced to reopen Las Vegas).


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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