Kokua Line: Extended jobless benefits available, but UI claimant won’t receive automatically

Question: Are the extended benefits automatic once I run out of unemployment? It’s getting close. What do I do?

Answer: No, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation is not automatic. You have to apply for this program, which adds 13 weeks of benefits for eligible claimants, and you must have a zero balance in your Unemployment Insurance account before you do so, according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

You would apply through your online UI account and answer a series of questions to determine whether you are eligible. For instructions on how to apply, see labor.hawaii.gov/ui/.

Q: Regarding the new unemployment call center, is that really working as advertised? I have been calling and calling and I never get through. Are others having the same trouble?

A: We got a lot of complaints from people who were unable to get through last week (the call center launched Sept. 30), but we’ve received fewer complaints this week.

Bill Kunstman, a spokesman for the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, said that 70 more call center staffers were added on Monday, which likely explains the improvement.

Calls are answered 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, except state holidays.

The call center’s numbers are 833-901-2272, 808-762-5751, 833-901-2275 and 808-762-5752.

Call center agents can handle a variety of questions and tasks, but they cannot perform adjudications, Kunstman said. Those cases, which include disputes over benefit denials related to job separation, must be handled by a claim examiner. Examiners are calling pending claimants directly, the DLIR says, and sometimes their calls go unanswered because they appear to be spam.

“If you have a UI claim requiring adjudication please answer 808 prefix phone calls from claims examiners: unfortunately some phone service providers ID the calls as spam or telemarketers,” the department said in a tweet Saturday.

Q: I know you must be tired of all the “what if” questions, but there is still so much uncertainty surrounding Hawaii’s testing program to avoid quarantine. So what if we get the test as required but then our plane is delayed? This is not that uncommon with Midwest winters and we are planning to come for Christmas.

A: The state Department of Health covers this on its COVID-19 website, saying that “a traveler who takes a test within 72 hours from the scheduled final leg of departure, and has a negative test result, and whose departure is delayed by the airline, will not be subject to the state 14-day quarantine. This provision will not apply to any additional county- imposed quarantine rules separate and apart from the state’s pre-test waiver.”

The response is in answer to the question, “What happens if my flight is delayed by weather or mechanical issues. Will my test be accepted?”

You mentioned lingering uncertainty about Hawaii’s plan to let air travelers avoid the state’s 14-day quarantine if they arrive with a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure to Hawaii. We encourage all prospective Hawaii travelers to keep close track of updates, including at staradvertiser.com, especially about arrivals directly from the continental United States to the neighbor islands.

Gov. David Ige has said Hawaii’s counties may opt out of the pre-travel testing program, and so far at least one — Hawaii County — has indicated it will do so, meaning that people who arrive on the Big Island from the mainland Oct. 15 and later would still have to quarantine, even if they arrive with a negative test.

That news dismayed readers we heard from who said they have second homes in Kona, and were preparing to fly in for the winter. They will be able to quarantine at home, but no, they can’t stop for groceries on the way home from the airport.

Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email [email protected]

Source Article