Critical help for businesses and the unemployed

Posted on Mar 30, 2021 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main
The Anderson family from Waioli Kitchen and Bake Shop with Governor Ige after the bill signing.

The Anderson family from Waioli Kitchen and Bake Shop with Governor Ige after the bill signing.

The Ige administration and the state Legislature worked together to provide relief for businesses hard hit by the pandemic and facing higher payments into the state fund that covers unemployment insurance claims. HB 1278 HD1 caps the employer contribution tax rate at a lower “Schedule D” level for 2021 and 2022.

“Temporarily reducing unemployment insurance tax rates will contain the economic fallout from COVID-19 and expedite the state’s economic recovery,” said the governor. “I signed HB 1278 to protect employers from higher tax rates at a time when they can least afford it. The measure allows employers to pay, on average, less than half of what they would otherwise pay into the system. The bill needed to be fast-tracked to head off a scheduled March 6 rate increase for employers. Ross Anderson, owner of Waioli Kitchen and Bake Shop, added, “The clock was ticking for small businesses, and we were all holding our collective breath. You came together and acted decisively to make it happen.”

To make it easier for the unemployed to get their questions answered, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations is launching a new appointment system for claimants to communicate with DLIR staff via video conference or phone. The online system at https://labor.hawaii.gov/ui/ starting April 5, allows claimants to schedule appointments for Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the first slots available on April 20. The pilot program will begin on O‘ahu first, then expand to the neighbor islands.

To help claimants get through to the DLIR call center, a new system to block auto-dialers has been installed. “We’ll be calling back those who can’t get through because the call center automatically logs incoming calls, whether they are answered or not,” said DLIR director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio. “Our biggest concern is claimants not picking up their phones when we call.” Under the new system, people can respond to a specific choice of options, including regular unemployment, PUA, reporting fraud, or whether you are an employer calling about employee-related matters. The local numbers for the call center are 762-5751 and 762-5752. The toll-free numbers are 833-901-2272 or 833-901-2275. DLIR said there will be no lag in benefits for most claimants as long as they remain eligible for benefits. The department has also hired an additional 25 investigators to focus on overpayments.

Read more in the April Capitol Connection newsletter.

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