HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state has paid out nearly $4 billion in unemployment benefits since the pandemic started, but thousands are still struggling to get their claims paid.
Despite a new call center, people with relatively minor problems that are holding up their claims can’t get through. The state’s contracted new call center reports 200 dedicated customer service representatives are handling incoming inquiries and 100 staff are adjudicating claims.
Single mother Amanda Alvarado hasn’t been one of the call center’s success stories.
She claims she had a minor job separation issue that she needed to appeal and resolve.
After countless calls and emails, she was able to get a customer service representative to tell her an examiner would call her back in two weeks.
But that time has passed and she says hasn’t been able to work or receive benefits since March.
“It’s incredibly frustrating because they’re bringing on all these people and it seems like what they’re saying is that the people who are answering the phone calls are (being paid) to tell us to wait and that doesn’t seem like the best allocation of funds," said Alvarado.
State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, who sits on the coronavirus legislative committee, said the situation is unacceptable.
“That’s not just a case with unemployment insurance, but also the case with rental assistance," Dela Cruz said. "We’re doing our best as part of the committee and on behalf of the Senate and the public to try to follow up with the departments, making sure that they’re on task, trying to offer any assistance that we can provide.
“The governor is currently working on his budget and within a month, we’ll see what kind of resources are going to be needed so that the departments can be as efficient and effective as possible.”
Hawaii News Now invited the Labor Department to have someone available to interview during our weekly coverage and they said no one was available this week.
A DLIR spokesperson referred us to a statement from Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio:
“We too are frustrated as the DLIR strives to comply with the requirements and constraints that are mandated during this unprecedented time in Hawaii’s history so that it can process your claims. I truly understand your frustrations when changes are made to your claims to comply with these requirements and how it is upsetting to you when you need us the most."