Unemployment claims soar as tourism comes to a standstill, business close

Updated: Mar. 17, 2020 at 6:24 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state saw an additional 1,490 unemployment claims Monday. That one-day total, surpassed the total from the previous week.

From March 6 to March 12, there were 1,282 claims.

Experts say it’s clear the unemployment numbers will continue to rise sharply as more businesses are forced to close during the pandemic.

Unemployment claims spike on Monday
Unemployment claims spike on Monday(Dept. of Labor & Industrial Relations)

To try and prevent people from waiting in long lines at the unemployment office, the state launched an online filing system Tuesday.

“That is the most effective way to get your claims processed,” said Scott Murakami, director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Those who cannot use the online system can still call the office at 586-8866, to make an appointment.

Some businesses are struggling to stay open especially those dependent on tourists.

“We’ve been feeling the effects for awhile,” said Aaron Lau, owner of Lau Lau Woodworks and Simply Wood Studios.

He owns two shops in Waikiki and his signature, handmade koa pens are popular with visitors, especially those from Asia.

Businesses struggle to stay afloat during pandemic
Businesses struggle to stay afloat during pandemic(None)

He said the near shutdown of tourism in Hawaii has hit his business hard.

Additionally, the craft fairs and art shows where he also brings in money are also closed.

At CrossFit 808 in Kalihi, franchise owner Elyse Umeda-Korth now limits class size. All members have to use the website to reserve a spot in each class so it doesn’t exceed the recommended 10 person limit.

The club has also added workout videos and is allowing members to borrow equipment so they can work out at home.

The social distancing has her concerned because the CrossFit philosophy includes group workouts.

“It’s day to day right now," Korth said.

"If it keeps going month after month, then at that point we’re going to have to think about cutting staff or downsizing the gym. Obviously the last thing we want to do is close down completely.”

Other gyms, like 24 Hour Fitness and Planet Fitness, have temporarily suspended all operations.

Aaron Lau has 10 employees at his woodworks stores. He hopes they can find work if he’s forced to close.

“This is the first time a problem has arisen and I don’t know how to do with it. I’m actually clueless on how to deal with this,” Lau said.

There are multiple offices that people can call if they cannot use the online application:

Oahu Claims Office - 586-8970

Hilo Claims Office - 974-4086

Kona Claims Office - 322-4822

Maui Claims Office ; 984-8400

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