State unemployment system impossible
I am writing to express the profound frustration and anger that my family and so many of our friends, acquaintances and people throughout the state are experiencing in trying to access the unemployment benefits we are eligible for and entitled to.
I will forego listing all the problems people are having with the UI claims system, as they have been well-documented and articulated in news articles and on social media, and instead suggest a solution.
In a May 5 COVID-19 Care Conversation in the Star Advertiser with state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Director Scott Murakami, the director stated that the “three biggest challenges for the department are certifying claims, addressing busy phone lines, and responding to the significant number of email inquiries.”
I am heartened that he listed the certification of claims first, as this seems to be at the root of DLIR’s problem in addressing this crisis. I understand that his department is legally obligated to ensure the integrity of the UI system and evaluate claims to guard against fraud and abuse.
But given the unprecedented magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis in Hawai‘i, with greater than 30% of the workforce suddenly unemployed, does it really matter if a few undeserved claims are paid out when more than 50% of eligible claimants are being left in limbo with bills piling up and kids to feed?
I would add that no sane individual would even try to submit a fraudulent claim just now given the sheer insanity of the current process, with people literally spending days upon days just trying to speak with someone from the DLIR on the phone or access the online system.
The obvious remedy is to temporarily suspend the department’s standard claims-certification process, as there are no jobs to be found anyway, open the floodgates, and get money flowing to all the eligible people who have been trying so desperately to access benefits.
Alternatively, require people approved for benefits to provide a written, mail-in form attesting to the certification questions currently asked on the DLIR’s online system. There will be ample time when this crisis has passed to perform a post-mortem analysis of claims and pursue fraudulent payments. But for now, people are quite literally going hungry, and there is no excuse for further delay. Fix this now.
Cyndy Johnson, Ha‘ena
Flow of information is vital
Kudos to The Garden Island newspaper for delivering timely and valuable information to the Kaua‘i community during this trying COVID-19 pandemic. Although information is easily distortable in the Information Age, it is during this time of widespread worry that access to reliable daily news is a critical need for we who live on an segregated island.
I appreciate now, more than ever, that as First Amendment Americans we are citizens of a nation that preserves the flow of vital information to all. Even the current strident info-war between the left and right political polarities is actually, to me, a symptom of the health of our national character.
And TGI is a good example of the crucial public service provided by the Fourth Estate. I look with dismay at how I would live in deep fear if we lived under a dictatorial regime that suppresses its press for its own selfish addiction to power.
Instead, to paraphrase a Chinese proverb: “It is better (for TGI) to light a candle than (that we) should curse the darkness.” Please keep your deliveries coming. I need to guess where Dennis Fujimoto is going to pop up.
Dana Bekeart, Kapa‘a
Mahalo for helping dog struck by car
Big mahalos to the Westside ladies who stopped in Kalaheo to help a dog that had been hit by a car two weeks ago. They watched over her, kept her calm, and helped us get her to the vet. You were all so kind and compassionate. Happy to say that Limu is healing quickly and we are so grateful for your kindness.
Melanie Cierras, Hanapepe