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Kokua Line: Can I still get unemployment benefits if I have to collect Social Security early?

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Question: I’m still on furlough — attached to my company, but not receiving any hours. My employer continues to cover my health insurance. I have been collecting unemployment compensation for over a year now, and I’m wondering if I can collect Social Security while on furlough and still collect unemployment compensation? I will be 64 in July, and I understand that I will receive a reduced Social Security amount due to an early start date.

Answer: Yes, it’s possible to receive both. You wouldn’t report your Social Security income on your unemployment claim because “Social Security is not wages under UI, and therefore not applicable to UI benefits. The only retirement/pension accounts subject to UI is if they’re from an employer in the claimant’s base period,” Bill Kunstman, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said in an email.

Likewise, Social Security income is not deductible from Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims, according to the DLIR. This answers a question from another reader, a PUA claimant who said ongoing restrictions on large events may force her into early retirement; she had made a good living as a self-employed events planner prior to the pandemic and government restrictions on gatherings. She won’t have to report Social Security income on her PUA claim.

Both of you plan to collect Social Security before your full retirement age, which means that your monthly benefit will be lower than if you had held off for a few more years.

KOKUA LINE is hearing from a growing number of readers frustrated that what began in March 2020 as a well-defined effort to keep Hawaii’s health care system from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 when there was no vaccine, has morphed over the past few months into a vaguely defined, open-ended system of government restrictions that make it hard for some people to make a living, has deprived young people of educational opportunities, and leaves elected officials and government agencies largely unaccountable.

And that’s not even including travel. We hear daily from Hawaii families making long-delayed trips out of state who are upset that they must shell out hundreds of dollars for pre-return testing or quarantine for 10 days when they get home, even though they were fully vaccinated here and have the vaccine card to prove it. As of Friday, there was no update on when those types of travelers would be included in Hawaii’s vaccine exemption.

Q: A person I don’t know very well said I can get free flights if I show my COVID-19 vaccine card. Is that a scam?

A: Not necessarily, but be sure to check the specific airline’s website for details to confirm you’re not being misled. Scammers try to exploit real events to misdirect potential victims.

The promotion we’re getting the most questions about is genuine: United Airlines’ MileagePlus members “who upload their vaccination card to their account by June 22 will be automatically entered for a chance to win either a round-trip flight for two or free flights for a year to any of our destinations worldwide,” the airline says on its website,, where you can read the full eligibility rules.

Q: I was laid off two months ago. No union. I have been looking for work all along. Does that count with the new requirement? Also, I know they ask if you’ve searched for jobs, but where do you attach the documentation? I don’t see a link in my UI portal.

A: You are referring to the state DLIR’s revived job-search requirement for some people receiving unemployment compensation. Affected claimants must make three job-search contacts this week and every subsequent week, for the duration of their claim, according to the department.

Job-search contacts before today won’t fulfill the requirement, it said.

As to your second question, in general, claimants won’t be asked to attach or upload job-search documentation to their UI portal. They’ll simply be asked — when they certify their claim — whether they searched for three jobs that week. Claimants must keep a written log of their job search to provide to the DLIR upon request, but you can do that as a hard copy or electronic copy outside of your portal.

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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