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Unemployment offices to reopen Sept. 7

LIHU‘E — The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations announced that all of its unemployment offices statewide will resume providing in-person appointments starting on Sept. 7.

“A significant part of the decision was based on the (fact that the) level of claims is more manageable than it was during the deluge at the beginning of the pandemic,” said Bill Kunstman of the DLIR.

Prior to this announcement, a handful of residents held signs along Kaumuali‘i Highway on July 13, as reported by The Garden Island, to call on Gov. David Ige to reopen the Lihu‘e unemployment office.

“O‘ahu staff supplements the efforts of the Kaua‘i staff, and it should be noted that the call center will still be in operation for the foreseeable future,” Kunstman said.

There are some obstacles that the department faces, like many other businesses in Hawai‘i. “We, like other employers, have challenges hiring and retaining staff,” Kunstman said.

Kunstman gave some advice for claimants who may qualify for the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation.

“Claimants must be eligible to obtain benefits, including searching for three jobs a week and being able and available to work,” Kunstman said. “I should also note that many claimants are partial claimants, i.e., they are still attached to an employer or receiving part-time hours.”

All federal programs are currently scheduled to expire on Sept. 4, and Kunstman said it is looking unlikely that there will be any extensions.

Anne Perreira-Eustaquio, director of DLIR, wrote a letter on the DLIR website for claimants to read.

“I wanted to personally reach out to all of you and acknowledge that we at the DLIR have heard your concerns and frustrations over the processing of Unemployment Insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims during this pandemic,” Perreira-Eustaquio wrote.

“We too are frustrated as the DLIR strives to comply with the requirements and constraints that are mandated during this unprecedented time in Hawai‘i’s history so that it can process your claims.”

She continued: “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.”

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Source: The Garden Island

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