8 months into Hawaii’s economic crisis, thousands still without unemployment aid

8 months into Hawaii’s economic crisis, thousands still without unemployment aid

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s unemployment numbers remained stagnant this past week and there are still people who are having serious trouble getting paid.

The number of new initial unemployment claims actually went up slightly from last week’s 4,277 to 4,343 — only 66 more but it shows that thousands in Hawaii are still struggling.

Hawaii News Now still hears from people who haven’t been paid and can’t get any help.

Now, a full eight months into the crisis, we take a look at all that has happened.

On March 6, Hawaii saw its first confirmed coronavirus case.

Gov. David Ige told nonessential state workers to stay home on March 17, and a day later, the unemployment office shut its doors to the public.

Then came the traveler quarantine and statewide stay-home order. March ended with more than 80,000 unemployment claims filed.

April began with close to a quarter of the state unemployed and by April 20, the state had opened its fourth temporary call center to help process claims, but it was still not nearly enough.

By the end of May, the state reported that scammers were causing huge problems and slowing payments, especially for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims.

On June 5, Scott Murakami, director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, mysteriously went on leave.

“I ordered Director (Scott) Murakami to take some time off because as you know he was under tremendous pressure,” said Gov. David Ige, back in June.

July saw another hard hit for Hawaii’s unemployed when the extra $600 of additional weekly federal money ran out. Despite hundreds of volunteers and added state workers, few were able to get answers.

Murakami officially stepped down as DLIR director on August 10, and around the same time, the large phone bank at the Convention Center was dismantled.

September began with promises of a new virtual call center as claimants started to become desperate for their benefits.

Later that month around Sept. 16, the governor appointed Anne Perreira-Eustaquio as director of DLIR and in October, as promised, the state announced the new call center was up and running.

But it rolled out with lackluster results as many still were unable to get through.

On Oct. 14, the sate begins mailing out $500 restaurant cards providing some relief to families and support to struggling local eateries.

November started with claimants rallying in front of the DLIR building and capitol demanding the UI office reopen for in-person filing and expand its services.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.