HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Many laid-off Hawaii workers are growing desperate as they wait for their unemployment benefits.
The state has paid out more than $1 billion in the last four months – but thousands of claimants still haven’t received a penny.
The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations says 93 percent of valid unemployment claims have been paid out since the beginning of the pandemic.
However, more than 11,000 people are still waiting – and many can’t wait much longer.
"I don't receive any single money yet," said Gabriel Saldanha Costa.
Saldanha Costa is a server at Paia Fish Market in Waikiki.
He was laid off on March 20th and has yet to receive any unemployment benefits.
He is now back at his job but working reduced hours since business is slow.
He said he is relying on others for money – but says their kindness has run out.
“I owe money. I keep telling them, ‘I’m going to get paid. I’m going to get paid.’ But I don’t have any money in my account so it’s very hard,” he said.
The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said last week 93 percent of claims have been paid totaling $1.7 billion.
The governor defended the department last week.
“We have taken the number of backlog cases from more than 60,000,” said Gov. David Ige. “We are really down to those who have not received compensation, it’s the most complex cases.”
Over on the Big Island, fisherman Keith Steele is still waiting for a check as well.
Steele said he calls the Hawaii unemployment office 500 times a day and has never gotten through.
“We are struggling and if they don’t start answering the phone and getting our unemployment to us that we worked for, that we deserve, we’re going to start defaulting on a lot of our bills that we have, payments that we have and our loans that we have and it’s actually going to get worse,” said Steele.
As those bills pile up, Steele and Saldanha Costa are hoping their messages are heard.
“We totally need that money,” Saldanha Costa said.
“Governor Ige, please help us out and get this unemployment officers to call us and answer the phones,” Steele said.