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Maui’s jobless rate at 21 percent, highest in state, in August

Labor department offers help with $300 boost in aid

The Maui News

Maui island’s unemployment rate of 21.4 percent for August was the highest among the major Hawaiian Islands, though down slightly from the previous month, the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said Thursday.

Maui island’s rate was down from 22.6 percent in July; the rate was 2.4 percent — the lowest in the state — a year earlier.

Maui County’s jobless rate was 20.7 percent for August. Molokai’s rate was the lowest in the county — 6.9 percent — down from 8.1 percent in July and 7.2 percent last August.

Lanai’s jobless rate nearly doubled in August month over month to 8.6 percent, compared to 4.6 percent in July. Pulama Lana’i announced earlier this month that it began worker furloughs Aug. 11 after covering wages since the beginning of the pandemic in late March with hotels closed. Lanai’s jobless rate last August was 2.4 percent.

Kauai’s jobless rate for August was 17.8 percent; Hawaii island’s, 11.8 percent; Honolulu’s, 10.6 percent.

The island data are not adjusted for seasonal hiring changes, but that does not appear to be a major factor currently due to widespread unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state seasonally adjusted and nonseasonally adjusted rate was 12.5 percent for August. The national seasonally adjusted rate was 8.4 percent.

The number of unemployed Hawaii residents dipped 6,400 in August, compared to July, to 79,700. The number of jobless residents, though, is four times higher than last August’s 18,050.

Initial claims for unemployment fell 21.2 percent in August, compared to July, to 5,699. Residents filing weekly dipped 3.3 percent in August month over month to 124,513.

The labor department also reported Thursday paying out $3.2 billion in unemployment insurance since March 1 and the onset of the pandemic. Department acting Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio said the department has processed 95 percent of valid claims.

“Although we have processed about 135,000 self-certifications for the $300 plus-up, tens of thousands of more claimants are eligible,” she said.

Those filers should log in to the unemployment portal and “indicate that their unemployment was due to disruptions caused by COVID-19 to receive the additional benefit,” Perreira-Eustaquio said.

Claimants are required to sign into their accounts on the unemployment insurance portal and answer a pop-up page that allows them to self-certify that they were partially or wholly unemployed due to COVID-19, the department said. A graphic demonstrating the process is available at labor.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/How-LWA20200906.pdf.

The labor department will start processing payments in October, and the payments will be staggered for each week individuals are eligible. Payments will be retroactive for all the weeks eligible.

With the assistance of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, the labor department has received approval to pay six weeks of benefits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The program will pay $300 a week to all eligible claimants that have a minimum weekly benefit amount of $100 or more in unemployment insurance benefits. The program excludes those with a weekly benefit amount of less than $100 in weekly unemployment benefits.

Payments will be retroactive for the weeks ending Aug. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 and Sept. 5.

Individuals with pending issues preventing payment will not receive the additional $300 per week after the program has ended. Unlike the previous $600 weekly federal supplement that ended in July, the current program is a grant with a finite amount of money. When FEMA exhausts its grant funding, it will no longer have the resources to provide payments and the program will end, the department said.

For FAQs about the program, go to labor.hawaii.gov/ui/main/faq-lost-wages-assistance-lwa/.

In other labor department news, Gov. David Ige announced the appointment of Perreira-Eustaquio as director of the department Wednesday. She has been serving as acting director since the resignation of the previous director, Scott Murakami, last month.

Born and raised in Hilo, Perreira-Eustaquio has served as the department’s deputy director and administrator of the unemployment insurance program.

Ige also appointed JoAnn Vidinhar as deputy director of the department. She has served as administrator of the department’s Disability Compensation Division since 2015.

Vidinhar previously worked at the Department of Community Development for the City of Bremerton in Washington state. She was an assistant director and city building official, as well as a development manager and planner.

Perreira-Eustaquio and Vidinhar started in their new posts Wednesday. Their appointments are subject to state Senate confirmation.

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