State launches new call center for those seeking help with jobless claims

State launches new call center for those seeking help with jobless claims
The state labor director says 200 trained operators will be answering phones from 7:45 a-m to 4:40 p-m Monday through Friday (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new virtual call center to help those filing jobless claims launched Wednesday.

“I’m happy to share that $4.92 million of the coronavirus relief fund are being used to staff a 200-person call center for our state unemployment office,” said Gov. David Ige, in a news conference.

The Hawaii Labor Director said as of Wednesday afternoon the department has serviced more than 200,000 claimants and processed over 96-percent of those claims.

About 8,000 people still need help.

People like Kauai resident Pamela Andrade.

“Just this morning, when I checked my bank account, praying that maybe I’ll get that extra money and then only to see the $140 to live on for two weeks. It’s like what am I going to do?"

Andrade lost her job in March because of pandemic. And she, like thousands of other Hawaii residents, are desperate for money and have lost faith in the state’s unemployment system.

“This is a real pivot for DLIR,” said state Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson, chair of the House Committee on Labor and Public Employment.

Johanson said the new call center will be a game changer.

“We simply need more people and more bodies to be able to address these outstanding claims and I think that’s what these new initiatives coupled together will achieve,” he said.

The state labor director says 200 trained operators will be answering phones from 7:45 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. Monday through Friday.

In addition, 100 adjudicators will be coming onboard in mid-October to decide on issues that typically hold up claims.

The department is outsourcing a company called Maximus, Inc. to do the work.

“The reason for going with the mainland contractor is they have done this in 13 other states. They have individuals who are uptrained and are able to handle the different calls that will be coming in,” said Labor Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio.

Eustaquio said 40% of the workforce will be local.

“They’re uptrained by these experienced individuals so we can infuse money into the economy as well and get those claims cleaned up,” she said.

The toll-free numbers are (833) 901-2272 and (833) 901-2275 and correspond, respectively, to the local numbers (808)-762-5751 and (808)-762-5752.

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