Unemployed will need to look for work to get benefits

  • YOSHIOKA

  • IGE

People receiving unemployment benefits will have to start searching for work once again at the end of the month in order to continue to qualify.

During a news conference Thursday, Gov. David Ige announced that the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations will reinstate a requirement for unemployment insurance beneficiaries to apply for at least three jobs a week to qualify for benefits.

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At the beginning of the pandemic, the state waived the job search requirements for unemployment as required by federal law. Now, Ige said the time has come to “re-energize the economy,” and will reinstate the search for work requirement on May 30, meaning claimants will need to report at least three job search contacts beginning the first week of June, and every subsequent week.

Ige said the state will not suspend any federal unemployment programs, such as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation or the $300 unemployment supplement, for the time being.

Hawaii’s current unemployment rate is 8.5%, Ige said, higher than the national average of 6.1%.

DLIR Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio said PUA beneficiaries will not have to search for work. Nor will people who are only partially unemployed, union members, contractors or gig workers.

In order to ensure claimants aren’t cheating the system, Perreira-Eustaquio said the DLIR will pick claimants at random to check if they actually made their three job search contacts as declared.

“Our goal is to re-employ the unemployed and it is our hope that by reinstating the work search requirement, it will help more unemployed workers connect with available job openings,” Perreira-Eustaquio said.

Miles Yoshioka, executive officer for the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, was pleased to hear the news, saying a statewide survey of Chamber of Commerce Hawaii members found about 85% of businesses have job openings that aren’t being promptly filled.

“These open positions run the gamut from upper management to entry level positions,” Yoshioka said. “And what we’re hearing from the current employees is that they’re overworked and stressed.”

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Perreira-Eustaquio said a new website was launched to assist with the program, which can be found at hawaiiunemploymentinfo.com/return-to-work-report.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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