If you’re a Hawaii resident who’s suffered a loss of income or lost their job as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not alone. As Hawaii News Now reports, unemployment in Hawaii now stands at an alarming 37% (compared to just 2.7% in February), with more than 1 in 3 workers out of work as a result of the crisis. While the figures are expected to fall once the lockdown ends and businesses can reopen, for now, there’s no timeframe for when this will happen. While unemployment benefits won’t replace all lost income, they can be a lifeline for those struggling to make ends meet.
Here’s how to apply.
- Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?
- Before beginning your application, check your eligibility.
- For Hawaii residents, benefits are normally restricted to those who can demonstrate the following:
- You have lost your job or suffered a reduction in income through no fault of your own.
- You are able and available to work and are actively seeking employment.
- You are lawfully present in the US.
- You have earned an income in at least two calendar quarters within the base period, with the total earnings for the base period equal to at least 26 times your weekly benefit amount. The base period is considered the first four of the last five quarters prior to the date you filed your claim.
- You register for work at this site within 7 days of filing your claim.
On March 27, the government passed the CARES Act into law, a stimulus package that, amongst other things, expands the unemployment benefits packages and removes certain barriers to eligibility. If your income has been reduced or lost as a result of any of the following, you may now be eligible for unemployment benefits even if you’re unable to satisfy the work-search requirements:
- You have COVID-19 or in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.
- You are a caregiver to someone who has COVID-19 or who is in quarantine after exposure to COVID -19.
- Your employer has temporarily shut down operations because of COVID-19.
- You have been asked to work on reduced hours/ reduced pay because of COVID-19.
- Your ability to work has been affected by COVID-19 related school or public transportation closures.
- You are self-employed, a freelancer, or a gig worker whose business has been adversely affected by COVID-19.
How Do I Apply for Unemployment Benefits in Hawaii?
Although claims can usually be made in-person, all unemployment offices are currently closed to the public. Claims can now be made in one of two ways:
- Visit the online portal and follow the prompts to create an account and file your claim.
- Call (808) 762-5752.
Before you start your claim, make sure to have all the required information ready. As per the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, this includes:
- Your Social Security number.
- Your name, birthdate, and contact information.
- Your highest level of education.
- Your employment history for the past 18 months, to include the name and contact information for all employers, the dates of each period of employment, and your reason for separating.
- The name and local number of your union, if applicable.
- Your DD-214, any member copy, 2 through 8, if you were in the military during the last 18 months.
- Your Standard Form 8 (SF8), “Notice To Federal Employees About Unemployment Insurance,” if you were a federal employee in the past 18 months.
- Your work authorization information if you’re not a U.S. citizen.
- Your bank account and routing numbers for your bank or credit union for direct deposit.
Once you’ve filed your initial claim, you’ll need to begin verifying your claim weekly in order to remain eligible for payments. The claim covers the previous week and must be made once the week (which runs from Sunday through Saturday) is over. You will need to begin verifying your claims from the first week after your initial claim, even if a decision on your eligibility is still pending.
How Much Will I Get?
To calculate your weekly benefit amount (WBA), the Department of Labor will take your income during your highest-earning quarter and divide by 21. However, regardless of income, WBA is capped at $648. The department will issue a monetary determination outlining your estimated WBA while your claim is being reviewed. If you’d like to check your likely entitlement in advance of that, the department provides a benefits estimator for the purpose. In addition to what the state allows, the CARES Act also entitles you to a supplementary $600 flat payment per week until the end of July. If you have already filed a claim, no further action is required: the Department of Labor will assess your eligibility and issue any payments you’re entitled to, retroactive to March 29.
How Long Can I Collect Unemployment Benefits?
Under usual circumstances, only 26 weeks of total unemployment can be claimed during a one-year period. However, under the provisions of the CARES Act, this has now been extended by an additional 13 weeks, up to a maximum of 39 weeks in total until the end of July.
Can I Appeal If My Claim Is Denied?
Once the Department of Labor has reviewed your information, they’ll send you a determination to confirm your eligibility. If the claim is denied or if you disagree with the number of weeks or WBA, you have the right to file an appeal within 10 calendar days of the determination’s mailing date. If you miss the deadline, you may still be able to appeal within 30 days if you can demonstrate good cause for the delay. Appeals can be filed online at http://uiclaims.hawaii.gov or mailed directly to The Employment Security Appeals Referees’ Office (ESARO) at 830 Punchbowl Street, Room 429, Honolulu, HI 96813. Your appeal should include your contact information, SSN, a copy of the decision(s) you wish to appeal, and an explanation of why you disagree with the decision(s). To avoid any issues with payments, it’s vital to continue filing your weekly claims certifications while the appeal is ongoing.