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Kokua Line: People on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance not eligible for Hawaii’s 13-week EB20 extension

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Question: I have been on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance because I don’t qualify for regular unemployment insurance (I am self-employed). Will I be able to sign up for extended benefits when PUA runs out?

Answer: No, PUA claimants are not eligible to move into the separate extended-benefits program, which is known as EB20 in Hawaii, said Bill Kunstman, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

EB20 pays up to 13 weeks additional benefits to eligible claimants who have exhausted their regular unemployment insurance and their Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. Standard UI lasts up to 26 weeks, and PEUC lasts up to 13 weeks, for a total of up to 52 weeks when EB20 is included.

UI, PEUC and EB20 are separate programs for which eligible claimants must successively apply; the extensions aren’t automatic. EB20 is “a regular part of the federal-state UI program,” Kunstman said, triggered in late October by Hawaii’s high unemployment rate.

By contrast, as the DLIR explains on its website, PUA is not unemployment insurance, but a temporary federal program created by Congress under the U.S. CARES Act to help people who aren’t eligible for regular UI. That includes self-employed people like you, whose work has dried up during the pandemic.

In general, PUA pays up to 39 weeks of benefits to eligible claimants, plus another seven weeks after a state’s extended benefits are triggered, for a total of 46 weeks. So although Hawaii’s EB20 trigger did extend PUA benefits, the extension is shorter (seven weeks rather than 13). As noted, PUA claimants aren’t eligible for the separate EB20 program.

Moreover, unless Congress and the Trump administration act to extend the program, PUA will expire Dec. 26 and payments will cease, regardless of whether a claimant has eligibility remaining. PEUC also is set to expire on that date, but claimants receiving it generally could apply for EB20, since PEUC’s expiration would count as claimants having exhausted that benefit.

PUA claimants have no such option, Kunstman said. “There are no options for PUA exhaustees, as well as those with benefits remaining after the week ending Dec. 26, without federal action,” he said in an email.

Congressional negotiations to extend federal relief have stalled for months, but seem to be picking up steam as deadlines near. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, expressed optimism Thursday that a deal on a coronavirus relief package would be reached.

Q: With so many people trying to log in to the DLIR UI website and crashing it, my wife was not able to log in and file for UI in April. She emailed the DLIR backdating address three times now, and there has been no response of any kind. When can she expect to see any payment, and will she also receive the $600 federal money she would have received in April?

A: The email address that the DLIR had designated for backdate requests was overwhelmed and is no longer being used; the department has removed it from its contact page. Now the DLIR says that people who need a claim backdated should contact their local office, by email or phone.

On Oahu the number is 586-8970, and the email address is DLIR.UI.OAHU@ HAWAII.GOV, according to the DLIR website.

The auto-response from that address asks claimants to email only once “as multiple emails will not let us assist you any faster.” In the email, your wife should include her last name, first name, last four digits of her Social Security number (not the whole thing) and a brief description of the problem.

We can’t predict how long this problem will take to resolve, but yes, your wife should receive the overdue federal “plus-up.”


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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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