LIHU‘E — Since the Associated Press reported on the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ outdated computer system on Feb. 9, many Kaua‘i residents remain frustrated by the lack of communication from DLIR and are still waiting for their extended benefits.
Hawai‘i had the nation’s highest unemployment rate in December, the DLIR reported.
DLIR’s Director Anne Perreira-Estaquio told the AP “The department’s information-technology infrastructure is so old that rushing the work could crash the entire system, causing payment delays for more claimants.
“We don’t have programmers who actually understand the computer language used to program this application, “ Perreira-Eustaquio said.
Then, on Feb. 11, Perreira-Estaquio announced her department had completed system updates to handle the delayed extension of the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program this week, as reported by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Richard Foree of Kilauea was furloughed from The Dolphin Restaurant in Hanalei during the pandemic, and was receiving unemployment benefits until they were exhausted in December.
“I’m hoping to get back to work this summer,” Foree said. “But I may not even be back to work then. I am just trying to figure out like everyone else. We’ve been waiting since mid-December. It’s been about seven or eight weeks now.”
Foree is one of several Kaua‘i residents who read the AP article and is unsure when he would be receiving the extended benefits.
“What’s going on?” asked Foree. “If we know it’s two months because when in that article they said the system is so antiquated. I think they’re trying to find people that know that code. They got to go slowly not to crash the whole thing. And he said in the way she wrote, she says something somewhat vague, but that it’s going to be, I think, a couple or several more months.
“And that was shocking. I mean, if they know a month ago it’s going to be four months or something working on it, then put something out on their website that it’s going to take this much time. So if you don’t receive anything, don’t worry. But everybody worries because they don’t even provide that information,” said Foree.
Daiva Friedrich of Hanapepe said she and her husband also waited for a period of time in between March and December of last year.
“Unable to contact them by telephone or email, offices closed,” Friedrich said. “Unable to receive benefits for at least eight weeks when applied in March. Unable to receive extension (benefits) for six weeks since December — my husband is still waiting. Employers confirmed sending in the required forms every week with my name on it as an employee. When I emailed UI asking to confirm they are receiving the form there was no reply and thus no answer as to why benefits were not deposited.”
Friedrich’s experience brings to light to how frustrating the whole process is for those who are unemployed and trying to file claims to survive during the pandemic.
“The system is antiquated, and reading the newspaper of how many millions of the CARE funds had been put into the system, it became very stressful, the fact we were doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, which if you read this definition in the dictionary the word that matches is ‘insanity,’” Friedrich said. “Most of the community of Kaua‘i live paycheck to paycheck, and being of the working class having to wait the duration that many, many claimants did for two months (average) is extremely stressful and felt very heartless.”
The DLIR reported that, since April of 2020 when unemployment hit 149,900 applicants statewide, it did decrease to 58,600 applicants in December of 2020 for nonseasonal jobs. For seasonal jobs there were 150,900 unemployed applicants in April of 2020, and that figure decreased to 60,700 unemployed applicants in December of 2020.
On Kaua‘i, there are roughly 72,000 residents, of which 35,550 were employed in 2019, according to Census figures. The non-seasonal jobs in April of 2020 saw 12,550 unemployed applicants, and that number dropped 4,200 applicants in December of 2020.
For more information, see labor.hawaii.gov/.
Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.