Help is coming to ease Hawaii’s severe unemployment claim backlog

Help is coming to ease Hawaii’s severe unemployment claim backlog

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Union leaders and state legislators put out a call over the weekend for hundreds of state workers to help tackle the massive backlog of unemployment claims.

House Speaker Scott Saiki hopes over 1,000 people will volunteer to process over 200,000 unemployment claims.

The volunteers all have to be state workers based on Oahu. They will work out of an unemployment intake center that’s been set up at the Hawaii Convention Center.

Non-state workers aren’t allowed to volunteer because some of the work involves private financial records and the work will be on state-owned computers.

The workers are being recruited from a website set up by the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly and the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

The unions said volunteers need to bring their state identification badges and are asked not to show up at the convention center until they get a confirmation email.

Local restaurants and food vendors are pitching in by providing meals for volunteers.

Workers will begin training Monday and will start processing claims by Wednesday.

“It’s an all hands on deck effort," said Gov. David Ige. "We recognize that unemployment benefits are clearly a lifeline to those who were laid off.”

Over the weekend, employees with the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, as well as the Department of Accounting and General Services worked at the convention center, setting up a call center and the intake center, which houses 150 work stations — all arranged according to social distancing guidelines.

A second intake center will likely be set up as the operations get up to speed, said Saiki, who along with U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and the public employee unions are spearheading the volunteer campaign.

“With the help of hundreds of volunteers, unemployment officials estimate jobless claims that would have taken months to process could be handled in just weeks,” the HSTA said in an email to its members today.

Randy Perreira, executive director of the HGEA, said he expects a big turnout.

“I trust we are going to get a lot of volunteers because there are a lot of people ready and willing to help," he said.

But there are logistical challenges.

“There is a question of how many computers they have available immediately," Perreira said.

“We’re working on that. That’s one of our constraints."

The website set up for the state volunteers is hawaiiworks.org.

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