Unemployment Filings Available by Phone, DLIR Says

March 23, 2020, 11:44 AM HST (Updated March 23, 2020, 1:56 PM)
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Big Islanders temporarily out of work due to the economic devastation wrought by the outbreak of COVID-19 are struggling to find timely relief from the state.

The Hawai‘i Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has been an unnavigable error message for days — its website crashing and its phone system nearly defunct under the pressure of thousands of applications for unemployment insurance filed in a truncated period of time.

Delays and inaccessibility, despite employing more than 3x the number of normal claims processors, have led to widespread confusion, misinformation online about how to appropriately file an application and concern over missed paychecks for many with no other source of income.

“It’s been frustrating, to say the least,” said Jesse Rosenthal, a long-time Kona bartender who was temporarily sidelined from his job late last week due to the outbreak of COVID-19. “I’ve tried (to apply) dozens of times a day since a day since Friday.”

The department came to something of a fix Monday, announcing the availability of two phone numbers to help process unemployment claims while it works to fix the current online claims filing process. The phone numbers will be available during normal business hours of 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The following phone numbers are for resetting passwords and making appointments for over-the-phone applications:

  • Password reset: 808-762-5751
  • Phone appointments: 808-762-5752

The local unemployment offices on all islands remain closed to walk-in and in-person services indefinitely.

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Unemployment services are expected to remain in high demand throughout Hawai‘i, as more non-essential businesses close their doors, either because of county mandates or out of an abundance of caution on the part of business owners.

Hawai‘i County continues to allow businesses where social gatherings are common, such as bars and restaurants, to decide if they want to remain open. Non-essential businesses have been temporarily closed by county mandate on every other island.

UPDATE: 1:50 p.m. Monday

DLIR has also announced the establishment of a new webform for filing unemployment claims that is available 24/7. Individuals can file claims by using a new online webform and choosing to either file a new claim or continue an existing claim.

The safest and most efficient way to apply for unemployment benefits is through the new webform at https://huiclaims.hawaii.gov/#/.

The State will backdate claims and deposit unemployment benefits for eligible individuals that were unable to file their claims due to the overload on the online filing system. Individuals filing claims will need an account for depositing funds into (savings or checking), financial institution routing number, and an account number. To be best prepared, have the contact information and dates of employment for all of your employers over the past 18 months.

Max Dible
Max Dible is the News Director for both Big Island Now and Kauai Now. He also serves as News Director for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations. He formerly worked as a community reporter for West Hawai‘i Today in Kailua-Kona from 2016 to 2019. Before that, he was a sports editor, sports reporter, and radio talk show personality covering college athletics in Iowa. He's won several regional and national journalism awards, at both the collegiate and professional levels, for breaking news, long-form feature writing, and his work as a sports columnist.

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