More help on the way to assist unemployment claims

Coronavirus

The number of people filing for unemployment on a daily basis is starting to slow down, but many people still haven’t seen any money.

Hawaii state senators asked the director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations when people could expect some relief.

As of Wednesday, April 8, the state had received 227,867 unemployment claims since March.

Today, DLIR director Scott Murakami explained why its been difficult for the system to process all the new claims.

He said back on March 18, the DLIR was receiving up to 3-million calls an hour.

“And the mainframe was never designed to do that, it was designed to do processing,” he explained to state senators.

In response to the increase of claimants, Murakami increased its number of employees from seven to 83.

On Monday, a call center opened in Kakaako to help with claimant phone calls and questions, but that too was overloaded with calls.

“We’re looking at the possibility of expanding our call center and setting up another one but we’re looking at viability of setting up another carrier, and the reason that is, I believe, we’re starting to tax some of the infrastructure we already have,” he said.

He explained other state systems also use the same system as unemployment claims.

“We have been in discussion with the state library system and are looking at deploying another claim center within the state library,” he explained. He said a target date for that would possibly be Tuesday of next week.

The call centers would help process claim information, receive calls and make phone calls to people who either need to provide more information or for other matters.

Another issue many people have had is confirmation if their claim went through or not.

Many have received a statement that it did and a username will be sent to them, but that could take about a week to receive. That has also caused a backlog in the system because 10% of claims have been duplicates.

Murakami said if the system says the claim is confirmed then the filing went through and the claim is in the system and the person will start filing weekly or bi-weekly.

Senators asked Murakami how much additional help was needed to assist with the backlog.

“We have put in a request for 58 additional staff and I know that we’re working with DHRD on that. I tell you part of the challenge we had in deploying that technology is that what we find is anywhere they call from, they’re going to call back those numbers that’s why we couldn’t just deploy it from any location,” he explained.

He said it also takes time to train those who have volunteered to assist.

However, Murakami said most of the calls they are now receiving have switched to certification questions, meaning more and more people have been able to get through the claim process of the system.

State senators said they would follow up with Murakami next week.

For now, there is no timeframe for when new volunteers will begin assisting the department.

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