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Kokua Line: Can I work some gigs and still collect Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?

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Question: I was relieved that we don’t have to search for regular jobs if we are on PUA — that would defeat self-employment! But I do have a question: If I start picking up gigs, can I still claim benefits? Also, auwe to people who act like we’re cheating the system. Please remember that it was the pandemic and the government shutdown that wrecked us. Without PUA we had nothing! Self- employed people are the hardest workers around when there’s work!

Answer: “If you are working part-time and making less than your weekly benefit amounts, you may qualify for partial benefits. You must report that you worked and provide the gross earnings on your weekly claim certification,” according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Once you are working full time, you should stop filing for PUA, which stands for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the federally funded compensation for the self-employed, gig workers and others displaced by the pandemic who don’t qualify for standard state unemployment insurance, or its federally funded extension, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

As you indicated, PUA claimants are not subject to the job-search requirements being reinstated for many UI and PEUC claimants starting May 30.

There are about 38,000 active PUA claims in the state, the DLIR director said Thursday. There are about 153,000 active UI or PEUC claims, of which about 106,000 will be subject to the job-search requirements. The difference includes partially unemployed claimants who are still attached to an employer or union and therefore exempt from the job-search requirement.

Q: My UI benefit year expired, and they automatically extended it like you said they would. But why did they extend it only three months and not a whole year?

A: Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations covers this question on its new website, hawaii, which should be useful to you and others asking similar questions.

“Federal guidelines require the Unemployment Insurance Division at the change of each quarter, or every three months, to check if a claimant with an expired claim or who is on an extension claim can establish a new benefit year in the state or any other state, including by combining wages from two or more states. The next change quarter begins July 2021.

“If you do not qualify for a new initial claim or previously selected to remain on Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, your benefit year end date will automatically be extended to September 5, 2021, which is when the PEUC program concludes.

“If you qualify for a new initial claim in July 2021, you will receive an email informing you to file a new initial claim.”

Q: Will there be a penalty fee if I submitted my federal taxes late but I am getting a refund?

A: No, since you are getting a refund, there will be no penalty for filing late, assuming that you completed your tax return correctly and are due money back, according to the Internal Revenue Serv­ice. The filing deadline for individual federal tax returns was Monday.

Q: What’s the website that has all the changes about driver’s licenses?

A: Honolulu County’s Department of Customer Serv­ices, Click the button for “COVID-19 Service Alerts.”

Q: With the Safe Travels app, can you upload your vaccine card once, or must you do so for every trip?

A: At this point you have to upload it every time you create a new trip file, but authorities hope to refine the system so the document can be saved and retrieved for future trips.

You’re referring to the quarantine exemption available to interisland travelers who were vaccinated in Hawaii against COVID-19.

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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