Number of new jobless filings down allowing state to focus on existing claims

  • IGE

The state Director of Labor and Industrial Relations on Tuesday gave lawmakers some good news regarding unemployment benefits claims, which have skyrocketed during the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott Murakami told the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 there has been a reduction in the numbers of new jobless filings, “which allows us to focus on the claims.”

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“The bottom line is, we need to get money out to the community,” Murakami said.

Murakami said that in March, the office paid out $15.6 million to claimants. He said as of Monday, $20 million was paid for this month.

“Last week alone, we paid $11,180,974, which was a 230% increase in the average monthly payments that we made in March,” he said. He said $7.7 million was paid on Monday alone, “which is a 372% increase on the average amount that we pay on Monday.”

According to Murakami, the main Hawaii Public Library in Honolulu has set up an unemployment call center and another is scheduled to open up April 21 at the Hawaii Convention Center. He said 20 computers are being provided by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, and the State Procurement Office is providing 30-plus machines.

He added a step-by-step guide for filing and following up on claims also has been posted on the Unemployment Division’s website.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said on Monday, 691 people arrived in Hawaii including 164 visitors and 205 residents. In comparison, during this same time last year, nearly 30,000 passengers arrived in Hawaii daily, including residents and visitors.

The state’s mandatory 14-day self-quarantine started on March 26 for all passengers arriving in Hawaii from out of state. The quarantine order was expanded on April 1 to include interisland travelers.

Ige said despite some resistance, most are in compliance with isolation, quarantine and stay-at-home orders — and that, at some point, Hawaii will reopen.

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“With all the mayors and emergency managers here in the islands, we talk about what are the next steps virtually every day, Ige said. “We are committed to the stay-at-home orders through April 30 and discuss the elements what would (warrant) a relaxation of social distancing. … If we take too quick action to reduce social distancing efforts … we will see a spike in the numbers of cases.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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