Phone lines jammed, website overwhelmed by thousands of new unemployment claims

Online system set up to handle unemployment claims crashes under high traffic

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The director of the state’s labor department apologized repeatedly Thursday for the problems those trying to file unemployment claims are encountering.

In addition to problems with the online application process, which was kicking out users at various stages, the phone system is also overloaded and was disconnecting people mid-conversation.

The problem?

“We are just overwhelmed," said Scott Murakami, director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, "I do apologize again for the limitations that we’ve had in our technology.”

Murakami said despite the significant increase in people filing for unemployment, there were seven employees Wednesday working on new claims.

On Thursday, seven more were brought in from other divisions. And on Friday, nine more will join them for a total of 23.

Murakami also said they are upgrading the technology.

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Currently, the online application system can handle less than 100 claimants per hour. He says his staff is making changes to increase capacity. He hopes that will happen over the weekend.

In recent days, unemployment filings have soared.

On Monday, there were just under 1,500 new claims. On Tuesday, that doubled to 3000.

Officials said 2,263 were filed on Wednesday, but they believe the drop was because of the system’s limitations.

State unemployment numbers for Wednesday
State unemployment numbers for Wednesday (Source: None)

“The reduction is not because of less filings, I want to make that clear with everybody."

To ensure social distancing, the office isn’t taking walk-ins either. Those who go downtown will have to leave contact information and wait for a call back.

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