Some worry state will botch rollout of program that extends unemployment benefits

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Updated: Oct. 29, 2020 at 5:50 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - For those who have used up their 26 weeks of unemployment and the 13 weeks of federal pandemic emergency unemployment compensation, there is another option.

The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said the Federal-State Extended benefits program kicked in starting Tuesday.

The new program gives eligible individuals an additional 13 weeks of benefits.

However, claimants are concerned about how effective the Federal-State Extended benefits will be, when the state still has a backlog of other cases to work through.

“Some are frustrated." said Jaime Taamu, a moderator for the Hawaii Unemployment Updates and Support Group. “It’s because they’re still waiting for PEUC, or they’re getting frustrated.”

John Witeck is the executive committee member of the Hawaii Workers Center Board of Sponsors. The center acts as a resource to those who are underpaid or who are immigrants.

Witeck said frustration after frustration comes from the non-union workers he helps.

“A lot of people have been waiting for months. It’s really a crime,” Witeck said.

"What’s going on? You would think the state of Hawaii would show much more aloha to the jobless people. They got laid off through no fault of their own.”

Witeck said the organization is hosting a prayer service and sign-holding event in front of the state unemployment offices Nov. 5 in an effort to restore in-person services to unemployed workers.

According to Bill Kunstman, a spokesperson for the Labor Department, close to 480 are working on processing unemployment claims. About 180,000 claimants receiving regular benefits have been paid and 20,000 claimants through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.

Kunstman said that even though there were issues with the state’s computer, nearly 300 extended benefits claims were filed.

If you’re eligible for the program, you will be notified by mail by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

The weekly benefit amount for this program would be the same that someone received for regular state unemployment insurance.

Logging into your unemployment insurance accounts would be the first step you can take to apply for the Federal-State Extended benefits and clicking under the EB20 announcement.

For more information, click here.

For help from the Hawaii Workers Center, click here.

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