State Issues Nearly $3 Billion in Benefits Since March 1
The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) has paid out $2.995 billion in unemployment insurance claims since March 1.
The COVID-19 health crisis was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11. As a result, Hawaii’s economy has been crippled in an effort to prevent widespread infection. Many businesses have closed and people have lost jobs.
“We are anticipating a significant increase of workers exhausting their regular 26 weeks of benefits due to the onset of the pandemic in late February and March,” stated DLIR Acting Director Anne Eustaquio.
With the assistance of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), DLIR received approval to pay four weeks of benefits in a new unemployment insurance plus up program called the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) Program. The program, under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was created by the President via a memorandum earlier this month in response to the July expiration of the unemployment $600 weekly benefit.
“We’re diligently building a new program within the unemployment computer system to implement and pay LWA benefits as soon as possible,” Eustaquio said. “To qualify for the $300 plus-up, recipients must be eligible for at least $100 in weekly benefits and must self-certify that they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to the disruptions caused by COVID-19. Payments would be retroactive to August 1, 2020.”
Unlike the FPUC program that ended in July, LWA is a grant with a finite amount of funding. When FEMA exhausts its grant funding, it will no longer have the resources to provide LWA payments and the program will end. If the federal program does not exhaust the LWA grant funding, payments will end on Dec. 26, 2020.
The DLIR continues to experience a high volume of attempts at fraud in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. As of Sept. 1, the department received 115,992 applications and processed 111,326 or 96% of the applications. The department continues to receive hundreds of fraudulent PUA claims weekly.
To date, the DLIR has paid up to $46.5M in fraudulent claims and prevented $616M in fraudulent benefits.