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Kokua Line: Will government extend federal jobless aid again?

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Question: I am getting by on PEUC and the plus-up. What happens when they expire? Will they be extended again?

Answer: You are referring to Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, a federally funded program that pays people who have exhausted their standard state Unemployment Insurance benefits, and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, popularly known as the plus-up, a federally funded program that pays a weekly $300 supplement to claimants receiving any amount of UI, PEUC or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (a third federally funded program, for the self-­employed and others ineligible for UI or PEUC).

The last payable week for PEUC, FPUC and PUA in Hawaii is the week ending Sept. 4, said Bill Kunst­man, spokesman for Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. At this point there is no sign that Congress and the Biden Administration intend to further extend the benefits, he said.

People who have pending claims that are resolved in the claimant’s favor past that date would be paid for eligible weeks prior to the expiration date, he said. In general, claimants should not count on the programs being extended again, as they were earlier in the pandemic.

“We don’t have a crystal ball … but it doesn’t appear that there is going be an extension of any temporary federal programs beyond early September. … The working assumption is that there’s not going to be an extension, so the emphasis now is getting people back to work,” Kunstman said. “Hopefully, we’ll continue our vaccination effort in Hawaii and elsewhere so we can get out of this whole situation. … It would not be prudent to be planning to have (federal unemployment) benefits after early September. Hopefully, people are in the mindset of getting back to work, and the sooner they can do that the better.”

Currently, tens of thousands of people in Hawaii are claiming PEUC or PUA on a weekly basis, relying on federal funding that has helped prop up the state’s economy during the pandemic.

Twenty states have already discontinued PEUC and PUA, with no objection from the federal government, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Q: Regarding the expanded Honolulu Police Department patrols for Chinatown that the mayor announced recently, where will the staffing for this come from? Are patrols being redirected from other neighborhoods? If so, which ones? Or are the patrols being staffed via overtime hours or some other means that doesn’t reduce police manpower elsewhere on the island?

A: “In checking with HPD, the new Chinatown enforcement shifts are separate from the patrol shifts. Officers will sign up using a computer program that will monitor overtime hours and prevent officers from exceeding the limits set by the department. Officers who voluntarily sign up will receive overtime pay,” Tim Sakahara, a spokesman for Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, said in an email.

Blangiardi announced the stepped-up enforcement on Tuesday, saying in a news release that he was “appalled with the level of illegal activity in Chinatown.”

COVID-19 relief funds from the federal government will help fund the effort, which is expected to last through December and calls for 24/7 police coverage of the area from River Street to Bishop Street between North Beretania and North King streets.

Q: I got my COVID-19 vaccine shots as early as I could, in January. Do I need a booster yet?

A: Federal health authorities say no. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration issued a joint statement on the topic Thursday:

“The United States is fortunate to have highly effective vaccines that are widely available for those aged 12 and up. People who are fully vaccinated are protected from severe disease and death, including from the variants currently circulating in the country such as Delta. People who are not vaccinated remain at risk. Virtually all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are among those who are unvaccinated. We encourage Americans who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect themselves and their community.

“Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time. FDA, CDC, and NIH are engaged in a science-based, rigorous process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary. This process takes into account laboratory data, clinical trial data, and cohort data — which can include data from specific pharmaceutical companies, but does not rely on those data exclusively. We continue to review any new data as it becomes available and will keep the public informed. We are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed.”

NIH stands for the National Institutes of Health.

The federal agencies issued the statement after Pfizer and BioNTech, makers of a two-dose regimen, said their research showed that a third dose six months later significantly boosted immunity in a study of participants.

The companies said they expected to submit their findings to the FDA within a few weeks, a step toward seeking emergency authorization for booster shots.

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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