comscore Kokua Line: When will people on unemployment in Hawaii have to start searching for jobs again? | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Kokua Line: When will people on unemployment in Hawaii have to start searching for jobs again?

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Question: President Biden wants states to reinstate job-search requirements for people who are on unemployment. Do you know when Hawaii will do that?

Answer: No, but the director of the state’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations is scheduled to meet with Gov. David Ige today to discuss it, said DLIR spokesman Bill Kunstman.

Since the pandemic began, Hawaii has waived the requirement that people search for at least three jobs a week while collecting unemployment benefits. The waiver is authorized by federal law.

According to news reports Monday, President Biden has ordered the U.S. Department of Labor to ensure that people throughout the country don’t collect enhanced federal jobless aid if they turn down a suitable job.

Kunstman said it likely “would take a while” to reinstate the job-search requirements and that Hawaii claimants would be notified well in advance.

Q: When job-search requirements are reinstated, how would that affect people who are expecting/hoping to be called back to their previous jobs? Would they have to take a different job if it was offered?

A: That would depend on individual circumstances, Kunstman said, as spelled out in Hawaii labor laws. He cited Hawaii Administrative Rules Chapter 5, Title 12, found at

Section 12-5-35 outlines the usual requirements for eligibility for unemployment benefits, which include registering for and searching for work; being available for work; and, after extended unemployment, being willing to accept a different type of work, accept lower pay, relocate for work or be retrained.

All those requirements in force before the pandemic might be unfamiliar to people who filed for unemployment compensation for the first time during the pandemic.

Q: What about people who are on partial benefits, for example, furloughed employees working reduced hours? Would they also have to search for and accept new jobs that paid them full-time wages, rather than staying on partial benefits?

A: No, Hawaii Revised Statutes 383-29.8 waives the work-search requirement for them, because their employers have not fully laid them off, Kunstman said.

Q: Some states are dropping the $300 weekly federal “plus-up” that is added to unemployment because they believe the extra money is deterring potential employees from reentering the job market. Does Hawaii plan to drop the plus-up?

A: “The department has no plans to make a recommendation to suspend the federal plus-up,” said Kunstman. He noted that any recommendations from the department center on administrative and operational adherence to applicable state and federal laws and regulations, “not on setting economic policy.”

What’s known as the plus-up is the federal bonus added to the jobless aid of claimants receiving any amount of weekly unemployment compensation. Whether a claimant receives $100 a week or $600 a week in state UI, for example, the plus-up is the same.

The federal plus-up was $600 a week early in the pandemic, expired for a period, then was reinstated at $300 a week. The current version is scheduled to end in September.

Some employers say the plus-up is making it harder to hire workers, or to entice furloughed ones back to their jobs. The DLIR tells employers to report workers who have refused to come back to work and are collecting unemployment. Employers can make the report through the DLIR portal,

Q: I am on PUA. Recently a contract event came up that I would like to take, but it is only for one week. Will I be able to reclaim my PUA benefits after that one week? Or if I earn money for that one week will I have to give up PUA altogether?

A: “PUA claimants may earn money and retain the ability to file for benefits for other weeks in which there was no employment,” said Kunstman.

So, assuming that you are otherwise eligible, you would not lose future Pandemic Unemployment Assistance because you earned money that one week. PUA is the federally funded program for the self-employed and others not eligible for standard unemployment insurance.

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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