Anne Perreira-Eustaquio, acting Director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR), says her office has been making steady progress to help get benefits to those who qualify as quickly as possible, but she says empathizes with the thousands who are still waiting.
“I know it’s frustrating. I know they’re waiting. We’re trying our very hardest to get through the claims as fast as possible,” she told Spotlight Hawaii this morning.
“We are bringing on additional help. We are bringing on more volunteers in the next couple weeks. We are bringing on a call center to help us take the calls so we can get to those questions and help those individuals that need to be helped.”
Since the pandemic began the DLIR has faced an avalanche of claims, with more than 275,000 claims filed. Eustaquio says 96% of those have been addressed, with roughly 10,000 claims still pending. The pending claims are those that need further investigation, due to errors on the claim itself, or a discrepancy between an employee and his or her employer.
DLIR also manages Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a program launched this spring to give assistance to those who are self-employed or independent contractors. Eustaquio says the majority of PUA claims filed in Hawaii have been denied. Roughly 115,000 PUA claims have been filed, 75,000 have been denied, and another 13,800 are still pending eligibility.
Eustaquio also took questions on the newly announced $300 federal plus up for unemployment benefits. Claimants who receive a minimum benefit of $100 or more are eligible for an addition $300 a week. Those benefits are considered to be a new program, which means individuals will have to fill out new paperwork to obtain them.
“It’s a whole brand new program, we cannot use the same application that was used to pay out the $600 benefits. So the IT team is now working on programming a brand new system to pay out the $300,” she explained.
“The $300 will be retroactive to the week of August 1st. Right now we’ve been approved for three weeks of payments through FEMA. We are working on obtaining an additional week approval for benefits,” she said.
The DLIR has created new graphic informational charts available on their website to help the public navigate the system. To see them, visit labor.hawaii.gov.
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations.