Labor Department promises change, but those seeking benefits remain skeptical

Labor department promises change but many are skeptical

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii’s Labor Department acting director is announcing new program changes and improvements.

But about a year into the pandemic, many unemployed people are still very skeptical.

“I need answers,” said Ryan Shurtleff, who was laid off from Hilo Medical Center and now lives in Alaska. As a single mother of two, she said she is running out of money and patience.

“When I did speak with somebody, it was lack of concern. Like, ‘I don’t know what to tell you, good luck,’” Shurtleff said.

Labor Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio, who is seeking confirmation by the State Senate, said they have a new call center with all local staff and they have already been getting claims cleaned up.

She said they have about 50 to 60 agents right now and they hope to bring that up to 100 agents.

“We are pretty hopeful that this brand new call center will be able to clean up much more claims than we were in the past,” said Perreira-Eustaquio.

Perreira-Eustaquio said they have also implemented a new adjudication team that is working on the more complex claim issues.

She said 28 of them started this week and they plan to eventually hire 67 in total.

Shurtleff called Friday and said nothing has changed.

“‘The adjudicator will get ahold of you in two, three months, maybe four.’ That’s what I was told. So, what am I supposed to do? I got bills coming in. You say they’re going to get ahold of me. Well how am I supposed to maintain my cell phone bill for them to get ahold of me,” said Shurtleff.

Also on the horizon, a new modernization project to replace an antiquated hardware and software.

“We are moving forward to not modernize the mainframe, but modernize the unemployment insurance filing system as a whole,” said Perreira-Eustaquio.

The contractor has 18 months to get the on line system working.

Shurtleff said they have to expedite the process.

“I think maybe because they are doing all these changes that it’s just well let’s just sit on it until we get everything in line. But they’re making people wait which is wrong,” she said.

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