Laid off workers, shuttered businesses plead for emergency relief as desperation grows

Hawaii jobless rate soars as newly-unemployed still wait for answers

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tens of thousands of laid off workers and and hundreds of shuttered businesses are growing increasingly desperate as the days tick on with no hope of relief in sight.

In February, the unemployment rate in Hawaii was just 2.6%.

Today, with more than 224,000 jobless claims since early March, the unemployment rate stands at about 34%.

Susan DesJarlais is one of those now scrambling to figure out what’s next. She was one of about 90 workers furloughed from the Sand People and Sand Kids stores around the state.

DesJarlais managed the Kailua Sand Kids store.

“Some of the people in my own family and in many other friends’ families that are in the same situation,” said DesJarlais. “Some of my co-workers, some of them really need that paycheck from unemployment.”

The state says it has processed more than 136,000 jobless claims and paid just under 97,000.

DesJarlais filed her claim at the beginning of April, but she still hasn’t been able to get through to the state to find out the status of her claim. “At this point, we’re just giving up,” she said. “If I don’t have my job, and I don’t have income, I have to leave Hawaii. And I’ve been here since 1973. This is home.”

Business owners are also grappling with how to stay afloat.

Bill Comerford owns four Irish pubs, including O’Toole’s in downtown Honolulu.

Comerford got a federal loan through the Paycheck Protection Program. The money is supposed to be used for payroll, but Comerford said his workers could be better off on unemployment.

“They’ve got the benefit of local unemployment, plus federal unemployment with the added $600 a week bonus. They’re not coming back,” said Comerford.

That will still leave him in a bind — and possibly in debt — if he’s ever able to reopen. He’s written to Gov. David Ige and others, but hasn’t gotten the answers he says he needs.

“Without information, you get nothing. You’re making guesswork. It’s all guesswork. And that’s what we’re all doing in business right now," he said.

“The smartest thing for me to do is walk away," he added.

“I’m fighting that. I’m trying to preserve my businesses, I’m trying to preserve the operations, trying to take care of my employees. And there’s a pile of complications in the middle of all of that.”

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