18 workers reassigned to help with jobless claims are only staying long enough to get trained

State of Hawaii unemployment office
State of Hawaii unemployment office(None)
Published: Apr. 13, 2020 at 5:47 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 13, 2020 at 5:48 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Labor Department can use all the help it can get processing the more than 220,000 unemployment claims filed since March 1.

That’s why on Monday 18 workers from other state agencies were added to the department’s 83 staff members.

But Hawaii News Now learned, the additions are only for one week — just long enough to train them.

Then, the 18 will rotate out.

It’s a head scratcher of a decision that left lawmakers irked Monday.

"The public doesn’t want to hear excuses we want to get it done,” said a frustrated state Sen. Donna Mercado-Kim, during a hearing Monday morning.

Kim has repeatedly asked why state workers deemed non-essential can’t tele-work but are getting paid.

She wanted them shifted to needed positions, including at the Department of Labor.

She said it’s vital that the state work as quickly as possible to issue unemployment checks.

“They can’t pay their bills. It’s gut wrenching," Kim said about all those waiting for relief.

Labor Director Scott Murakami said he wasn’t given a full explanation of why the 18 additional staff members were going to be rotated out so quickly.

“The reality of it is that there is not only a training period but there is a period where people gain proficiency and that’s just about a week."

Late Monday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Department of Human Resources confirmed the 18 additional staff members are only there until April 20, saying they are “volunteers from other departments whose supervisors approved this assignment on a temporary basis for one week only.”

The statement from Director Ryker Wada continued, “This will allow us to formally notify the identified Category 3 employee (nonessential/unable to telework) this week of their new assignment and work location."

Those 20 will rotate in and be part of a longer-term staff.

Wada also indicated more, Category 3 workers would be sent over later to help process claims.

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