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Kokua Line: Can I collect unemployment benefits if I lose my job over the COVID-19 vaccine?

Question: Can someone collect unemployment benefits if they refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine and lose their job over it?

Answer: There isn’t a blanket answer to that question in Hawaii, Anne Perreira-Eustaquio, director of the state’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said Wednesday on Spotlight Hawaii, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s live-stream news show.

Unemployment Insurance filings involving discharge for failure to comply with an employer’s COVID-19 vaccination rules will be determined on a case-by-case basis, she said. The process is known as adjudication and takes longer than regular processing for an undisputed claim.

An investigation into whether the former employee is entitled to Unemployment Insurance benefits would consider multiple factors, she said, including the employer’s policies and the former employee’s circumstances, such as what kind of work they did.

Q: What is the current status of the helicopter task force that was supposedly created several years ago to address the numerous safety and noise issues of the tour helicopter industry in Hawaii?

A: The Hawaii Air Noise and Safety Task Force has been holding public meetings virtually during the pandemic, according to its website, hanstf.org.

The most recent meeting was July 20, focused on the area from East Honolulu to Waimanalo. You can watch videos of that meeting and earlier ones through the website. Click on the “Public Meetings” link on the homepage, then scroll down to the meeting links.

The task force’s next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 19. You can submit public comments through the website.

Q: Does the report of COVID-19 cases in public schools that the DOE releases every Friday include the charter schools?

A: No. All public charter schools have been instructed to report confirmed COVID-19 positive cases to the state Department of Health and to the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission, said Sheryl Turbeville, a spokeswoman for the commission.

The commission shares the information with the state Board of Education and the state Department of Education the day it receives it, she said.

Other readers have asked about vaccination rates at charter schools and how the commission promotes vaccination. Turbeville said the commission does not have information on vaccination rates at individual charter schools or the entire portfolio of 37 schools. “While the Commission encourages charter school faculty, staff, and eligible students to get vaccinated, it is up to each school to encourage its employees and eligible students to get vaccinated in an effort to keep our community safe. Each charter school is a state agency and as such must follow Gov. David Ige’s vaccination and testing policy for state employees,” she said.

No in-person service

The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has backtracked on its promise to reopen for in-­person service next month, citing Hawaii’s COVID-19 surge. (Please see story, B1.) The department, which handles unemployment insurance claims throughout the state, shut down in-person service nearly a year and a half ago, when the pandemic began. It had planned to revive in-­person service on Sept. 7, but on Wednesday said that instead it would “expand telephone appointments for claimants with general unemployment insurance inquiries and launch telephone appointments for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims and for Employer Services. The DLIR will also continue to operate its call center. Access to all appointments is available via the web (Chrome or Microsoft Edge) at labor.hawaii.gov/ui/appointments.”

Going Green canceled

All Going Green community recycling events scheduled through the end of the year have been canceled, due to the COVID-19 surge, said coordinator Rene Mansho. These drive-thru events, commonly held at public schools, offered a convenient way for residents to drop off recyclable materials such as e-waste, used clothing and HI-5 bottles and cans. One or two events a month had been scheduled.

Mahalo

Mahalo to the kind and generous person who paid for our sandwiches at the Burger King Kaneohe drive-thru on Monday at 7:45 pm. It was such a wonderful surprise! Your kindness will be paid forward. — S.N.


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 kokualine@staradvertiser.com.


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