The Hawaii restaurant card has given a considerable boost to businesses and the unemployed. But there are some people missing out due to delays in processing their claims.

The $500 debit cards, good at all eateries, were sent out last month to those who were getting unemployment benefits due to the pandemic between March and September. But those who applied in September and didn’t get approved until October were out of luck.

Those who contacted KHON2 say they tried for weeks to get unemployment benefits but because of the backlog, were left waiting. The state Department of Labor could not say how many people missed out on getting the restaurant card, but said it received numerous inquiries which sent them to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, which is in charge of the restaurant card program.

“I feel so bad that I talked to so many claimants who fell out of eligibility, and I know the Department of Labor is working as hard as it possibly can through the claims,” said Gwen Yamamoto Lau of DBEDT.

She points out that the program, which uses $75 million in federal Cares Act funding, is meant to support the struggling restaurant industry. Being able to help the unemployed was an added bonus.

“We incorporated them into the program to provide them benefits to help us get the money to the restaurants. But as DBEDT, we’re looking at supporting the businesses,” said Yamamoto Lau.

And just over two weeks into the program, she says it’s doing just that. More than 103,000 cards have been activated since the program started October 16, $17.2 million have been spent, at a rate of more than a million dollars a day.

Another 32,000 cards will be sent out to PUA claimants known as gig workers, who should receive them before Thanksgiving. But like everyone else, they need to spend the $500 by December 15 or the money goes back to the state.