Gov. signs bill aimed at rolling back employers unemployment tax rate

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — A bill that aims to roll back an increase to the amount of unemployment tax state employers are required to pay was approved and signed by Governor David Ige Tuesday afternoon.

Bill 1278 is the latest legislation to offer relief for most employers, who would have otherwise had to pay more into the unemployment insurance fund.

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“This measure allows businesses to pay less than half of what they would otherwise have to pay into the unemployment system,” said Gov. Ige.

The measure also conforms the manner of filing claims for partial benefits to the same as for total or part-total benefits seen in previous years.

According to Governor David Ige, the new law will allow businesses to pay, on average, less than half into the unemployment system. So the average tax under “Schedule H” on employers would have been $1,800 per employee a year. That’s been reduced to $850.

“If we did not act and get to this point today, employers would have been hit with very high unemployment contributions, especially when they could least afford it,” said the Governor.

Governor Ige says the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund was drained to nothing by June and the state had to borrow from the federal government.

“Because we are providing relief to businesses as part of HB 1278 that does mean we will continue to borrow additional funds on behalf of the employers,” he said.

One small business owner says this move brings stability. Waioli Kitchen and Bakeshop’s mission is to provide training to those who come out of substance abuse treatment or recent incarceration.

“We are able to focus now on growing our business again hiring back more of our staff and continue that mission of training for the future,” said owner Ross Anderson.

The Labor Department announced on Tuesday it has implemented what’s called an “auto caller bot” to improve its call center. The Director says they’ve been getting about 200,000 calls a day and many of them were “auto callers.” Now, the “auto caller bot” will kick out repeat phone numbers that come into the system.

“Every hour we were taking in about 6,000 to 7,000 calls,” said Director Anne Perriera-Eustaquio. “We brought it down to about 1,500 calls an hour. So those calls that get picked up will get answered by our staff or call agent staff, and hopefully, we’ll get through as many as we possibly can.”

The Labor Department says they will have a group of staff members that will be reaching out and calling claimants if they have not been able to get through the call center.

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