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Qualified workers in Hawaii to get extra week of unemployment benefits from FEMA

Hawaii workers eligible for an additional $300 per week in unemployment benefits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will receive an extra week of benefits.

The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations announced today that those who lost work because of COVID-19 will now receive $300 per week for six weeks, rather than five, if they qualify for FEMA’s Lost Wages Assistance program.

The payments will be retroactive to weeks ending on Aug. 1, Aug. 8, Aug. 15, Aug. 22, Aug. 29 and Sept. 5.

The DLIR, with assistance from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, approved the extra week of benefits.

On Tuesday Sen. Brian Schatz announced that FEMA approved an additional $70 million for Hawaii to fund the LWA program. It had received about $250 million prior to that.

The LWA program follows the federal CARES Act “plus-up,” which provided $600 per week in unemployment benefits but expired at the end of July.

Since then, unemployed workers in Hawaii had been without a federally funded unemployment benefits program until FEMA approved the state for the LWA grant in late August.

Qualified workers still will have to wait, however, as the DLIR said that it won’t begin processing payments until October. They also won’t get the the possible $1,800 in a lump sum, but instead “payments will be staggered for each week you are eligible.”

The LWA program, unlike the $600 “plus-up,” is only eligible for workers who qualify for at least $100 per week in weekly unemployment insurance benefits, also known as their weekly benefit amount.

But DLIR Deputy Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio said that more people can qualify so long as they indicate that COVID-19 led to lost work.

“Although we have processed about 135,000 self-certifications for the $300 plus-up, tens of thousands of more claimants are eligible and should login to the portal and indicate that their unemployment was due to disruptions caused by COVID-19 to receive the additional benefit,” Perreira-Eustaquio said in a statement today.

Eligible workers can do so by logging into their HUIClaims account at https://huiclaims.hawaii.gov/#/.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claimants who are eligible for the LWA payments don’t have to do anything further because they aready have certified that their unemployment or partial unemployment was due to a disruption caused by COVID-19.

More information about the LWA program can be found on the DLIR website.

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