Question: Auwe! I went online to make an appointment to talk to unemployment, and it said my appointment will be canceled if I have a “pending issue.” That’s the reason I am trying to make an appointment! What’s going on?
Answer: We heard similar complaints from numerous other readers Monday, the day Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations opened an online reservation system for claimants to communicate with staff in the Unemployment Insurance division. Available appointments were snapped up the first day, but many readers had expected that would happen. What they didn’t expect was what they perceived as a Catch-22 in the scheduling system, which said:
“1. Please choose an appointment date/time and complete the form.
“2. You will receive a confirmation email.
“3. Your information will be reviewed and approved for a Zoom meeting or phone call.
“4. If approved, you will receive a notification email with a Zoom meeting link. If you selected the phone call option, you will be called at your appointment time.
“5. If your claim has pending issues your appointment will be canceled and a Claims Examiner will contact you at a future date.”
We followed up with Bill Kunstman, a spokesman for the department, who said that pending issues requiring investigation (also known as adjudication) would result in the appointment being canceled. For example, this reservation system should not be used by claimants who know they are pending (unpaid) due to an overpayment, as those cases must be handled by an examiner, he said.
“If an individual signs up for an issue that requires an investigation, the appointment will be canceled, which will free that appointment for another claimant,” he said in an email.
Some claimants may be pending for reasons that do not require investigation; those appointments would move forward, he said.
The department did not make this distinction when it announced Wednesday that the reservation system would open Monday for Oahu claimants. As we said, all available appointments were booked on Day One. More will be released in three weeks, according to the website, labor.hawaii.gov/ui.
We asked how long it would take an examiner to contact a claimant whose appointment is canceled, but Kunstman said it was impossible to generalize “because the claimant that signs up for such an appointment could have an issue requiring adjudication from September 2020 or yesterday.”
Claimants who have been pending the longest should be contacted first, he said.
“The processing staff will make note of the request in the claimant’s file so when the claims examiner begins the investigation they will have that note for reference,” he said.
Unclaimed tax refunds
The clock is ticking for about 7,600 taxpayers in Hawaii who are missing out on a total of $7.8 million in refunds because they failed to file a 2017 federal income tax return. To collect their unclaimed refunds, they must file their 2017 return no later than May 17 and possibly meet other requirements, the Internal Revenue Service said.
I’ve had phone calls from six area code numbers saying that they have my stimulus payment but need my address to send it. I am 85 years old, and my Social Security payments are sent directly to my bank account, as were the stimulus payments. This is probably a scam. Please notify your readers. — A reader
(You are correct; these are scam calls. The IRS won’t call asking where to send or deposit your stimulus payment. Mahalo for warning other readers.)
Mahalo to the lady who was in front of us at the McDonald’s in Aina Haina on March 25 and paid for our meal. Thank you very much. — Tony
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