LIHU‘E — The state Department of Labor &Industrial Relations announced on Thursday in a conference call with Gov. David Ige that they will be implementing the “search for work” requirement back into their system.
It only applies to those who are fully unemployed and receiving unemployment benefits, starting on May 30 for the week ending June 5.
In response to the pandemic, Ige said the state did relax the requirements that people receiving unemployment benefits search for work on a weekly basis.
“At this point, the public-health measures we implemented and the success of our vaccine program have allowed us to begin to re-energize our economy,” Ige said.
“With our pre-travel testing program in place, we’re seeing more people traveling to Hawai‘i. And as tourism has picked up, more employers are looking for people to fill positions. The state’s current unemployment rate is still 8.5% above the national average unemployment rate of 6.1. Because the economy is recovering, I will be reinstating the work requirement.”
DLIR Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio said we are reinstating this search for work requirements to receive unemployment insurance benefits.
“The governor had relaxed this requirement because of the COVID pandemic, with the flexibilities provided to states through U.S. Department of Labor,” said Anne Perreira-Eustaquio, DLIR director.
“We estimate that approximately 106,000 claimants will be needing to look for work. They will continue to reach out to employers and individual postings to see if there is work available and if there’s anything that suits their needs,” she said.
According to Perreira-Eustaquio, three job-search contacts must be made on a weekly basis by every UI claimant. She said those who are totally unemployed need to actively look for work.
“If claimants are partially unemployed, or are attached to a union, then they do not need to look for work. There’s no requirement for them to look for work,” Perreira-Eustaquio said.
“What constitutes a work search? So there are many different areas that constitute work search — you can register on what we call Hirenet Hawai‘i, you can also go to a job-search board, you can fill out applications or you can meet with employers for interviews. All of those activities constitute a work-search requirement,” she said.
Perreira-Eustaquio said lack of child care is not an eligible reason for unavailability to work. However, because of COVID-19, she said the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program allows for eligibility for claimants who cannot accept work or go back to work because of child-care-related reasons. Therefore, this search-for-work requirement does not apply to those reaching PUA benefits.
The DLIR has two programs to make sure claimants are really looking for job opportunities each week.
“We have at the Unemployment Insurance office (people who) investigate work-search requirements. One of those programs is called ‘receipt, reemployment services, and eligibility assessment,’” Perreira-Eustaquio said.
“It’s a program where our Workforce Development Division reaches out to the unemployed on a random selection of the unemployment insurance universe and selects individually tools for what we call an ‘individualized reemployment assessment.’
“They put a plan together for these individuals. And one of the things that is required is that they look at their job-contact log,” Perreira-Eustaquio said.
“Our goal is to reemploy the unemployed, and it is our hope that by reinstating the work-search requirement, it will help more unemployed workers connect with available job openings,” said Perreira-Eustaquio.
“Whenever there is a change to Hawai‘i’s unemployment-insurance process, questions arise from both claimants and employers. We’re pleased to announce we have created a new website to answer frequently-asked questions as well as to provide updates.” The website is labor.hawaii.gov/covid-19-labor-faqs/.
Stephanie Shinno, education and business reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.