Unemployment office changes call center hours while new issues delay payments

Unemployment office changes call center hours while new issues delay payments
The fourth and largest unemployment call center is set to open at the Hawaii Convention Center. (Source: Hawaii News Now/file)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Those unemployed and still waiting for benefits are encountering another issue with the state Department of Labor: The call-in center hours have changed.

There are now only three full days that claimants can call in: Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Hours for the call center are from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, incoming calls are taken from 7 a.m. to noon. Then the system switches to outgoing calls only from noon to 6 p.m.

Saturdays are reserved for outgoing calls from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The state Department of Labor made the changes a few weeks ago to allow the volunteers more time to get back to claimants.

The volunteer staff at the convention center are also not recommended for those with issues concerning PUA, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Instead, DLIR recommends this support site.

Hawaii News Now has received dozens of complaints about PUA delays after thousands of fraudulent claims were made by identity thieves.

It’s a nationwide problem but here in Hawaii at least 6,000 PUA claims were made using stolen information resulting in millions being paid out.

That is one reason for the payment delays. The Labor Department says they are reviewing each claim and there have been more than 82,000.

Others who have received PUA benefits say they were suddenly told they did not qualify after all.

William Kunstman, spokesman for the department, identified one of the disqualifiers: PUA is meant for independent contractors and freelancers. If the person had at least $130 in wages from an employer in the last 18 months, they do not qualify for PUA.

Kunstman said even if the person owns their own business, if wages exceed that amount, the person is ineligible.

“Also likely, they were initially found eligible for PUA but after further review, we found wages,” Kuntsman said.

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