Unemployment office turns to paper as flood of claims overwhelm online system

Unemployment office turns to paper as flood of claims overwhelm online system
Hawaii state unemployment office (Source: Hawaii state unemployment office)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In an effort to help the newly unemployed make claims on an overwhelmed system, the state is adding drop boxes for paper forms to all locations.

Once the application is dropped off, staff will manually input the information or call the person.

“We’ve learned this past week ... about where our shortcomings are," Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Director Scott Murakami said.

The online application system is so overloaded, frustrated users complained they were kicked out of the system or just couldn’t log on.

Those who tried to call into the office to file expressed similar experiences. In many cases, the phone line would just disconnect.

Murakami tripled his staff, adding people from other divisions to assist.

“We’re bringing online two new gateway servers and four new web servers so that would give us a lot more capacity,” he said.

And the new drop boxes were just added Friday afternoon for those anxious to get the process started.

The state is preparing for thousands more unemployment claims as the coronavirus pandemic cripples the state’s no. 1 economic driver ― tourism.

Kelly Sojka was laid off Thursday. She worked the front desk at a Waikiki hotel.

“It all happened very, very quick," she said.

Sojka knew the tourism industry would suffer. She was hopeful, but also “kind of mentally prepared myself.”

The issues with the filing process affected the claims numbers.

Unemployment numbers through the week
Unemployment numbers through the week (Source: HI Dept. of Labor & Industrial Relations)

All last week there were a total of about 1,200 new filings.

Monday it was up to 1,500 and Tuesday that doubled to 3,000. But Wednesday and Thursday, the numbers dropped significantly because the system kept crashing.

Murakami understands that means a lot of out of work people were turned away.

“All I can say is that we’re trying everything we can to fix it," he said.

The new servers should be up and running by Monday.

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