The Department of Labor & Industrial Relations (DLIR) has announced updates for unemployment insurance and assistance benefits as a result of Subtitle A Crisis Support for Unemployed Workers of Title IX of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.
Although the U.S. DOL projected that many states would need until the middle of April or later to implement the new provisions and begin notifying individuals, the department notes there will be no lag in benefits for most claimants as long as they remain eligible for benefits.
“It is our top priority right now to ensure claimants experience a seamless transition as the federal unemployment benefit programs are extended through the first week of September. In anticipation that the final version of the legislation extending the CARES Act programs would be absent major changes, we proactively started programing the changes that are saving thousands the financial hardship and lag in payments we saw earlier this year due to a delay in federal action,” said Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio. “I am extremely proud of our hard-working staff that has spent the last year during this unprecedented situation, navigating the onboarding of new programs, program changes by law and guidance as well as extensions.”
Regular unemployment insurance claims normally expire after 52 weeks but with the federal extensions, most claimants will have their claim automatically extended and receive benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Emergency Compensation (PEUC) program. Claimants with additional work history during the pandemic may be eligible for a new claim and will receive an email notifying them to file a new claim.
The DLIR continues to expand internal staffing of the call and claims investigation centers at the Hawaii Convention Center and hired a vendor to perform investigations focusing on overpayments. Solid State Operations, Inc. will begin with 25 investigators on April 6 and ramp up services through early September when the federal authorization to use non-merit staffing currently expires with the ARPA unemployment provisions.
Solid State is the same vendor the department is using to replace an aging, legacy mainframe system designed in the 1980s with a web-based application. The cloud-hosted, software-as-a-service application with superior technology, lower total costs, and more flexible capabilities will transform the way the DLIR provides essential services to unemployed workers, to employers of the state of Hawaii, and to the United States Department of Labor, according to a press release.
The DLIR is also instituting an appointment system for claimants to communicate with unemployment staff via video conference or telephonically. The appointment system will be in place by April 5, 2021, to allow claimants to schedule an appointment beginning April 20, 2021. Appointments will be available every Tuesday and Thursday. The initial pilot will focus on Oahu with plans to expand to the Neighbor Islands. Claimants can request appointments through an online link that will be available at https//labor.hawaii.gov/ui/ starting on April 5, 2021.
The department mailed out revised form 1099-Gs on Monday, March 29 to individuals that contacted the DLIR requesting revised forms due to identity theft.
Title IX of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 extends key unemployment insurance and assistance provisions of both the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) as well as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). For a summary of the changes and extensions see: https://labor.hawaii.gov/blog/news/dlir-announces-no-gap-in-benefits-extended-in-the-arpa-of-2021/.
None of the benefits described above, nor unemployment benefits of any kind, are available to employees who are terminated for cause, quit their job without good cause, or refuse to return to work. Attempts to collect benefit payments in these situations could be viewed as fraudulent. Investigation of job separation is part of the eligibility determination process.
For more information about unemployment insurance and other labor issues, visit the FAQs at https://labor.hawaii.gov/covid-19-labor-faqs/.