State volunteers begin processing unemployment filings for Labor Dept. at Convention Center

Coronavirus

Hawaii went from having one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. to now one of the highest. And with the unemployment office being flooded with hundreds of thousands of claims, dozens of volunteers have started to help, working out of the convention center.

House Speaker Scott Saiki said there are hundreds of state workers recruited for volunteer work. Of those, the Labor Department tells us nearly 280 are trained as of Tuesday. Speaker Saiki said the recruitment drive has been really successful.

“So far, recruited 580 volunteers and that’s in addition to about 100 volunteers from the legislature and also volunteers from other state departments. So we are looking at least 700 volunteers at this point,” said Saiki.

At the convention center, the Department of Labor is running one shift of volunteers from 9 to 5 this week through Saturday. Starting next week there will be multiple shifts that will run from 7 to noon and 1 p.m. to 6 in the evening, Monday through Saturday.

The idea this week is to build that proficiency in the volunteers and then we’ll start running multiple shifts starting next week,” said Labor Department Director Scott Murakami.

“There will be two shifts, a morning shift, and afternoon shift, so hoping there will be more hours in the day to process claims,” said Saiki.

As far as work stations, we’re told there are 260 computers for the volunteers and some of them are used for training. So we asked if the state will be getting more computers.

“One of the things we are looking at is whether or not what the capacity of the mainframe is because you have to remember all of these people are actually working directly on the mainframe and I’m concerned because I’m hearing from people they are having a difficult time certifying,” said Murakami.

Now that the unemployment office has more manpower we asked how soon could people get their checks? Murakami says at this time he cannot give an accurate timeline.

“As I shared in the past, we have an antiquated system and because of that a lot of the data that we receive is pretty rudimentary types of data. And so I’ve been working with the contractor, our staff, and ETS to try and get better analytics on it,” he said.

Murakami says a call center at the Convention Center will be live on Saturday.

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