Problems with unemployment? A look at how long it may take to get that first check


HONOLULU(KHON2)–If you’re having trouble filing for weekly certification for unemployment, you’re not alone. The State’s unemployment system is struggling to keep up with the record number of filing benefits.

Dan Viola is a DJ on Maui. He said he’s been trying to sign into the unemployment website since Sunday but keeps getting an error message.

“The frustration level for not only me but for others trying to access the website and not being able to do so has got to be absurdly high,” Viola said.

He and his wife both filed for unemployment last week.

“We’re set up to go. We got the email back saying we’re set up. We have our direct deposit set up with Hawaii unemployment insurance, but we just can’t get on there to file the necessary weekly data that they need to process payment.”

He said he and his wife aren’t in dire straights yet, but he feels sorry for families who need that money now and can’t get through.

Viola is just one of the 194,936 Hawaii residents who filed for unemployment benefits since March 1 due to COVID-19.

Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Director Scott Murakami said they are simply overwhelmed.

“Our challenge has been just this deluge of unprecedented numbers of claims.”

Murakami said once the number of initial claims slows down, they will be able to focus more of their attention on the certifications.

They went from handling 1,000 payment certifications in a day to 22,000 on Sunday alone.

Murakami said he understands everyone’s frustration.

“That weighs heavy on us as well. As I’m sure it does for the individuals that need the money. We are trying to take care of about a third of the entire workforce.”

“I would ask people to keep trying (to call and log on),” Murakami said.

“Because we are trying to balance the new claim filings with the certifications.”

A spokesman for the Dept. of Labor said you may have better luck getting through toward the end of the week. Since the certification process runs Sunday through Saturday, there is always a higher volume of people trying to get through in the beginning of the week.

He said they are trying to get the first payment out to people within 21 days of their initial filing date.

“Your claims will be dated from the day that you lost your job, and we will pay you the full amount of the benefits that you’re entitled to. It may not come right away, and I apologize for that, but it will be there,” Murakami said.

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