Months after losing their jobs, thousands still waiting for unemployment benefits

Months into pandemic, thousands still haven’t received unemployment benefits

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - While the state has processed tens of thousands of unemployment claims since March, thousands more are still waiting for benefits to start.

“There is nobody paying any attention to people who need help and just ignoring us for months and weeks on end — it’s just a terrible way to treat people,” said Anahaii Silva, a Realtor who was able to get a few weeks of jobless benefits before it stopped abruptly with no explanation.

Like many others, her efforts to contact the unemployment office have been unsuccessful.

Wendy Hatchie is in a similar situation.

She was denied for regular unemployment, waited for federally-funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and then about a week later received a letter saying that she may now qualify for regular unemployment after all.

“I don’t know if the two departments are talking to each other, like, do they even know what’s happening? Is the left hand talking to the right hand? I don’t know what’s happening there, which is very frustrating and then you never get any responses back from emails,” Hatchie said.

“It’s just, it’s very frustrating. And I have a lot of friends who are in the same position and it’s hard. It’s really hard.”

The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations says there are a number of reasons some PUA applicants might have eligibility issues, including a federal requirement that makes the state look at eligibility on a quarterly basis — meaning that claimants who filed in March became eligible in April. The same thing happened beginning in July, according to the department.

DLIR has hired 18 more claims examiners since the pandemic, which means they have 56 total examiners including 10 volunteers from other agencies and seven retiree volunteers. That’s up from an original seven employees in March.

A spokesperson said they are now recruiting 30 extra claim examiners and that many will be dedicated to PUA when they officially start, but there’s no timeline on when that will happen.

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