Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 |
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Plans to open in-person appointments for unemployment benefits have been delayed amid rising COVID-19 cases.
“It’s been extremely difficult to ensure the safety of the community, our customers and our staff as the level of COVID-19 transmission increases,” said Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio, noting the department will instead implement new initiatives beginning Sept. 7.
For the first time, the department will be taking adjudication appointments, where a claims examiner needs to reach out to claimants who have a pending issue and make a determination on whether they are eligible or not for benefits, Perreira-Eustaquio said Wednesday during the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Spotlight Hawaii livestream.
Regular unemployment appointments will be expanding to Monday through Friday with the addition of more customer service representatives, and phone appointments for claims will be implemented as well as appointments for employers with online filing or tax questions.
The news comes just over two weeks before federal unemployment aid programs are set to expire.
The week ending Sept. 4 is the last payable week of enhanced unemployment benefits established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of March 2020 and extended under the American Rescue Plan. That includes the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).
Perreira-Eustaquio said regular unemployment claims, not an extended (PEUC or PUA), will continue as long as the claimant has a balance and their benefit year has not yet ended. She added that those whose PEUC benefits are expiring on Sept. 4 will not qualify for unemployment benefits if they have not worked.
“We hope claimants will be able to get back to work when benefits end Sept. 4,” said Perreira-Eustaquio.
For new regular unemployment claims, the one week waiting period that was previously waived will go back into effect and claimants who continue to seek benefits will have to register for the workforce division in order to continue receiving unemployment insurance benefits, she said.
Perreira-Eustaquio clarified those who were furloughed and never went back to work, cannot qualify for new unemployment benefits, however those furloughed called back for part-time hours, can initiate a new claim.
She also urged residents to check out the Workforce Development Division, which helps not just the claimants on unemployment but the unemployed as a whole or those looking for new careers. American Job Centers are open around the state and job listings are available at hirenethawaii.com
Perreira-Eustaquio said employers have expressed a shortage of workers.
“We are hoping that claimants who have not gone back to work will look for those opportunities,” she said.
For more information, visit www.hawaiiunemploymentinfo.com.