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Many scramble to find work as Hawaii renews job search requirement for unemployment benefits

Published: May. 27, 2021 at 6:02 PM HST|Updated: May. 28, 2021 at 8:46 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Starting Sunday, Hawaii is renewing the requirement that people must search for work to qualify for unemployment benefits.

Under the reinstated requirement, claimants need to make three job search contacts per week. The state brought back the job search rule as employers complain of being unable to fill jobs.

But just because people are searching for jobs doesn’t mean they’ll find what they’re looking for.

[Read more: As employers scramble to find workers, job search requirement reinstated for unemployed]

Leslie Von Brimer used to rent her condo and work for ridesharing services. The pandemic took a huge financial toll when she could no longer make any money.

“I lived here for 25 years,” Von Brimer said. “I would have bet my life that I would never leave. But now, honestly, I would get on a plane tonight. "

She said while there are lots of jobs out there, she can’t find anything that will pay enough to support the properties she has now.

“I’m not gonna be able to ever save up that money again,” Von Brimer said. “It’s gone. My livelihood here is gone.”

Others are facing similar issues as they continue their job search.

Valeria Malkowski, an unemployed retail manager, said she has had to work her way up in the retail industry. Now she can’t find a job that matches her qualifications.

“What worries me is that there are not really that many jobs in those criteria that I’m looking at,” she said. “If I take a job that pays me $20 an hour, I will be on a rate that I was eight years ago.”

Regulations say that you don’t have to take unsuitable work or a position way below your pay grade. But some say they’ll just be applying to meet the requirement.

“So I have a job lined up and it starts mid-July to late July,” said Evann Goo, an unemployed restaurant worker. “I have a job, I’ve done my part. Why do I have to continue to play this game?”

And then there are those who haven’t receive a payment in months.

Jaydee Rodrigues said she has had a pending case since November and hasn’t received payments.

“So with this job search reinstatement, my concern is that the very limited resources that they have today will definitely affect my situation,” she said.

But employers say that have struggled with hiring are hopeful that they’ll have more employees to get them back into business.

“I think it will help a lot of businesses that have a number of employees, that’s kind of still could work for them but they haven’t come back,” said Fred Atkins, Kilohana Plantation general manager.

Atkins opened up the Kauai business last week but had to limit business hours.

“And hopefully, they’ll come back,” Atkins said.

A DLIR spokesperson says the most recent count they have for staffing at the Convention Center help center includes 60 call center representatives and 57 employees working on investigation and adjudication.

DLIR Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio said when announcing the work search change that verifying all of that information will impact overall operations at the department.

Hawaii News Now also asked about the progress on updating the state’s unemployment computer system and were told the project is on track but were provided with no specifics.

The labor department has set up an FAQ online.

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