State paid $204M in benefits in April as unemployment hit 35%

State paid $204M in benefits in April as unemployment hit 35%
Unemployment in HI top 35% (Source: None)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Amid the statewide shutdown in April, Hawaii’s unemployment rate soared to an unprecedented 35%.

The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said Friday it has received 229,142 jobless claims since the closures and sudden halt in tourism started in March.

In the month of April alone, more than $204 million has been paid out to laid off workers in Hawaii.

That’s a combination of the unemployment insurance and the federal $600 weekly plus up, part of the coronavirus relief package.

A total of 81,507 claims have successfully been processed.

Despite the massive payout figures, there are still tens of thousands waiting for relief — and encountering frustrating technical issues with the state claims site.

DLIR reports that 36,693 claims have been denied and anticipate many of those people are independent contractors and gig workers who now qualify for federal money instead under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

Their filings won’t be processed for weeks as the state Department of Taxation needs to work with DLIR to implement the federal program.

Still others are facing delays because of errors in their claims that require assistance. Hundreds of volunteers and DLIR workers are in various sites doing that but backed-up phone lines are resulting in long wait times for help.

DLIR reports that 180,175 filings are in the processing phase.

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