A Message for Our Community from Anne Perreira-Eustaquio, Director-DLIR
I wanted to personally reach out to all of you and acknowledge that we at the DLIR have heard your concerns and frustrations over the processing of Unemployment Insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims during this pandemic.
We too are frustrated as the DLIR strives to comply with the requirements and constraints that are mandated during this unprecedented time in Hawaii’s history so that it can process your claims. I truly understand your frustrations when changes are made to your claims to comply with these requirements and how it is upsetting to you when you need us the most.
The DLIR must comply and enforce the federal laws and regulations governing the Federal-State Unemployment Compensation (UI), Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Extended Benefits (EB) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) programs. If we do not comply with all of these directives, the DLIR will not be able to receive the federal funds which it uses to pay you benefits under the federally funded programs and to sustain and manage these vital programs.
Just two examples of such requirements under the UI program are that jobless workers must show they have worked (which depends on the amount of wages earned and/or the number of weeks worked) and that they are able and available for work.
Another example is found in the PUA program. PUA is not an unemployment insurance program. It is a temporary federal program created by Congress under the CARES Act. PUA provides benefits to individuals not eligible for regular unemployment compensation (such as individuals who are self-employed or who have limited recent work history) or extended benefits under State or Federal law.
One of the complaints commonly expressed is claimants having to move from UI to PUA and PUA to UI.
I would like to share critical information about the relationship between UI and PUA and explain why individuals may be moving between those two programs throughout the existence of the PUA program.
The PUA program comes with its own stringent Federal requirements. In general, PUA provides up to 39 weeks of benefits (with an additional 7 weeks with the trigger of EB) to qualifying individuals that are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable to work due to one of the COVID-19 related reasons identified in the CARES Act. An individual is not eligible to receive PUA if they are eligible for UC, PEUC, or EB.
Because an individual receiving PUA cannot be eligible for regular UC, PEUC or EB, DLIR is required to check whether an individual is eligible for regular UC, PEUC or EB every Quarter. If the individual becomes eligible for regular UC, PEUC, or EB, then payment on PUA MUST STOP and the individual may file a regular UC, PEUC or EB claim.
This process must be followed or the DLIR can lose the Federal funding needed to support these programs. It is in this desire to maintain funding that much of your frustration is centered upon.
In the spirit of transparency, we wanted to share with you the four most common reasons individuals may be switching from PUA to UI.
- An individual had a limited work history and now has wages in the current base period quarters to qualify for UI.
- An individual’s employment was determined to be in covered unemployment under the UI law.
- An individual is eligible for a UI claim in any other state.
- An individual is eligible for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) because they had a UI claim that expired on or after July 1, 2019.
Additionally, these are the three most common reasons why individuals may be switching from UI to PUA.
- An individual is disqualified from UI due to being unable or unavailable due to a COVID-related reason such as needing to care for a child who is distance learning.
- An individual is disqualified from UI because they quit a job before the COVID-19 pandemic to pursue self-employment.
- An individual exhausted their UI benefits, including PEUC and EB and is eligible under one of the ten COVID related reasons.
I hope this will provide you with information on the UI and PUA programs to help you understand some of the difficulties you are experiencing. The COVID-19 pandemic coupled with stringent federal requirements has unleashed unprecedented challenges for the DLIR. Everyone at the DLIR and all of those who are assisting us have and will continue to work tirelessly to process your claims. We are committed to doing whatever it takes within our power to diligently process every claim so that assistance is provided to all of you.
We will get through this together.
Take care, Stay Safe and Aloha.