Nearly 18,000 gig workers in limbo as state works to bring PUA platform online


HONOLULU(KHON2)–PUA applicants remain in limbo as the department of labor and Industrial Relations works to get the PUA platform online.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, program extends eligibility to people who normally wouldn’t qualify for unemployment benefits.

Many small business owners and gig workers are reaching the two-month mark without a paycheck. Many said things get harder for them financially with each passing day.

“We’re all just sitting and waiting and hoping for the best,” local musician Shawn Pimental said.

Pimental, like so many others, hasn’t been able to work since March.

“Being a self-employed, full-time musician, all the gigs were cancelled.”

But Pimental said he’s lucky — his girlfriend is still working.

Not everyone is in the same boat.

Royal Hawaii Catamaran owner Shane Gibler said they are barely staying above water.

“We’re on our last drops right now. We’re trying out best — we’re trying to sell gift certificates, we’re trying to do anything to get our names out there. It’s kinda hard, we’re just a young business, less than a year old.”

Gibler said business was good until COVID-19 tanked the tourism industry.

He said he’s tried every option possible for relief, with little success. If something doesn’t happen soon, his business may go under.

“The disaster relief we received one thousand dollars. Outside of that, there’s been nothing. When PUA came out, I applied for that and they gave me an email last week to wait two weeks. So nothing yet.”

Gibler and Pimental are not alone.

According to a spokes person from the department of taxation, as of May 7, 2020 PUA received more than 17,544 pre-applications.

That number may not include those who have been disqualified due because their claim is still active in the regular unemployment system.

Uber drivers, musicians, small business owners, many on the verge of losing everything they’ve worked for, are still waiting for assistance.

The department of taxation confirms that “No payments have been made to date” for PUA.

They said they will continue to take pre-applications and claimants who qualify for PUA will receive the additional $600 per week under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.

May 15th remains the target for the PUA platform to be fully functional.

That means it could take several more weeks until people are paid.

“We hope we can just stay floating until we can start back up again,” Gibler said.

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