Efforts to combat unemployment fraud create new headaches for filers

Efforts to combat unemployment fraud create new headaches for filers

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Residents seeking unemployment benefits or trying to file weekly certifications are encountering new headaches as the state scrambles to address fraudulent claims.

The first issue has to do with those trying to file weekly or bi-weekly certifications, which are required.

When someone tries to file them online, a pop-up appears asking for permission to verify that the claimant is in Hawaii. The person needs to click “allow.”

But many have instead chosen “block” which freezes the process.

And that’s a really big problem.

“Benefits are stopped when it appears claimants are filing outside of Hawaii so claimants should allow the system to detect their location when filing certifications,” acting Labor Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio told Hawaii News Now in an interview Thursday.

Labor Dept. location verification pop up
Labor Dept. location verification pop up (Source: None)

If the filer is in state, the claim moves forward but if the person is out of state, more information is needed.

Eustaquio said it doesn’t disqualify the claim but people who left Hawaii after losing their job will need to be contacted so their address can be verified and to ensure they are not working somewhere else.

Another issue filers are running into: Payments through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which is reserved for independent contractors or freelancers who have lost work, are being suddenly stopped without explanation. Multiple people have contacted HNN about the problem.

Eustaquio said there could be a number of reasons payments are stopped.

For one, every PUA claim filed with the state ― more than 80,000 of them ― is being reviewed after thousands were found to be fraudulently filed using stolen information.

In other cases, PUA payments were stopped because the person became eligible for regular unemployment insurance instead ― even though they had been previously denied.

“They do have wages in the system, so we have to look at those wages,” Eustaquio said.

On multiple occasions, a claimant’s former employer reported those wages late so the person was approved for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance but it was later found that there was enough to qualify for traditional unemployment insurance.

To make things more confusing, the volunteer call center to assist with claims is only for those applying for unemployment insurance. There is no call center for PUA, just a website.

Through the site, the applicant can pull a ticket to start communication with someone from the department and then log into the account later for the answers.

The Labor Department reported that nearly 1,000 people a day filed a jobless claim this past week, bringing the total number of claims filed since March to 245,519.

Of those, 71,953 were found to be invalid and 10,455 are waiting for claimants to verify. The department paid out 151,542 filings, leaving nearly 12,000 claims needing to be further investigated.

The state Labor Department provided these bullet points as common issues holding up claims:

  • People working full-time but filing for the loss of part-time work;
  • Incorrect deposit information supplied by claimants;
  • No weekly certifications filed by claimants;
  • Claim backdate issues;
  • Separation from work that requires investigation;
  • Not allowing location information while filing certifications;
  • Claimants that have filed multiple claims;
  • And failure to create a username and password in the claimant online portal.

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