State officials are developing a plan to distribute additional unemployment benefits from the Lost Wages Assistance Program, a new federally funded unemployment insurance plan.
Hawaii has secured four weeks of the program, which provides a $300 bonus to various types of unemployment benefits, the state said in a news release Thursday.
The program, under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was created by President Donald Trump via a memorandum in August in response to the July expiration of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which provided an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits.
According to Anne Eustaquio, acting director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, whose office handles unemployment claims for Hawaii, the department is working to build a new program within the unemployment computer system to process and pay the new benefits.
“It’s a whole brand new program,” Eustaquio said Wednesday during a video livestream from Honolulu. “We cannot use the same application that was used to pay out the $600 benefits. So the IT team is now working on programming a brand new system to pay out the $300.”
FEMA initially approved three weeks of the program late last month, and an additional week of funding was announced this week.
“This will bring an extra week of relief to many who are still unemployed due to the impact of the coronavirus on our economy,” Gov. David Ige said in the news release. “I’m taking this action to maximize all available federal funds to help people in Hawaii who are unemployed because of COVID-19.”
To qualify for the $300 benefit, recipients must be eligible for at least $100 in weekly unemployment benefits and must certify that they’re unemployed or partially unemployed due to COVID-19 disruptions.
Payments would be retroactive to Aug. 1.
A DLIR spokesman clarified that benefits only will be paid to those who were unemployed during the weeks ending Aug. 1-22.
According to figures released Thursday by the DLIR, the department has paid about $2.995 billion in unemployment insurance since March 1.
There have been 279,542 unemployment claims filed statewide, 96,687 of which were invalid.
A total of 171,855 claims have been paid, and another 11,000 require DLIR action.
During the livestream, Eustaquio said there have been more than 115,000 applications for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides benefits for those who do not normally qualify for unemployment insurance, like the self-employed.
Eustaquio said 75,000 of those claims have been denied, and the department currently is paying benefits to just over 30,000 people. An additional 13,800 claims are still being evaluated.
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