Unemployed Hawaii residents will need to look for work to keep receiving benefits

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Want to collect unemployment benefits? You must once again prove you’re searching for work.

Gov. David Ige announced on Thursday that he’s reinstating the work-search requirement starting May 30. Click here for more info.

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This comes as Hawaii’s unemployment rate remains high at 8.5% in April compared to 6.1% nationally.

Initial claims for unemployment also rose 9% last month compared to the previous month. Some businesses wonder if the move will make a significant difference.

Businesses big and small are struggling to find workers. Owners say they expect to get even busier, so the next few months will be critical.

With the move to require the unemployed to search for at least three jobs a week, employers wonder if the state can actually enforce it.

“Tracking down everybody on a weekly basis, probably not. So I think it’s more of a scare tactic. That will work for some, but I don’t expect that to have a tremendous amount of impact,” said Monty Pereira, general manager at Watanabe Floral.

The state estimates that 106,000 will need to search for jobs. Officials investigate and verify that the workers are searching but only randomly select the cases.

“The unemployment insurance investigator will reach out to the contacts that the claimant made and actually verify these contacts,” said Anne Perreira-Eustaquio, director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Part of the problem is that some workers wind up making more money staying unemployed because of the additional $300 a week from the federal government. Other states have opted out of it, but the governor says too many families here are still struggling.

“We do believe at this point in time that continuing to receive the $300 benefit benefits the economy overall as well as their ability to pay rent,” said Ige said.

Businesses say there should also be some incentive to get people working.

“I really do think that having a little bit more accountability will be a big help for us and just motivating people to get back in the work force,” said Jimmy Chan, owner of Hawaiian Chip Company.

Businesses are looking to rebound from the pandemic and would need more workers sooner than later.

“It’s a struggle because right now you have the ability to do more business than you’re capable of doing, which is sad because we can’t buy as much as we want from local sources,” said Pereira.

“It’s been an impossible task. I think this year alone we’ve probably hired 10 people. I think only one has stuck so far,” said Chan.

The federal benefits are scheduled to expire in September.

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