Suddenly, you're jobless ...


POSTED: Friday, December 12, 2008

  Question: I lost my job. Whom should I contact to receive unemployment benefits?

Answer: If you are unemployed or your work hours have been reduced, you can file a claim for benefits in Hawaii by phone or in person. Call Hawaii Tele-Claim at 643-5555 or visit a local claims office.

Offices are at 830 Punchbowl St., Room 110; in Waipahu at 94-275 Mokuola St., Room 301; in Kaneohe at 46-005 Kawa St., Room 205 (Monday and Wednesday only); in Wailuku at 54 S. High St., Room 201; in Kaunakakai at 55 Makaena Place, Room 4; in Hilo at 1990 Kinoole St.; in Kona at the Ashikawa Building; and in Lihue at 3-3100 Kuhio Highway, Room C-12.

Q: What documents do I need to file for unemployment? Do I need anything from my previous employer?

A: If you report in person, bring a picture ID. The state will contact your former employer for information.

Q: Can I file for unemployment even if it was my decision to quit my job?

A: Yes. However, if you quit, a determination on whether your decision was with good cause will be made to determine your eligibility for benefits.

Q: How often will I get a check, and for how much?

A: The state's Unemployment Insurance Division will analyze your claim, and if there are no problems, you will get your first check in about three weeks. Then you will file claim certifications biweekly and get a check biweekly.

Claims are based on the wages paid to you in the base period, which is the first four of the last five completed quarters. To calculate your weekly benefit amount, look at the highest quarter in your base period and divide by 21. There is a maximum limit of $523 for 2008 and $545 for 2009. The average weekly benefit amount as of October was $403.

Q: Will I receive health insurance?

A: No health insurance is available through the Unemployment Insurance Division. You can check with the Department of Human Services if you qualify for health insurance such as Med-Quest.

Q: How long can I receive unemployment benefits, and what are the requirements I need to follow to continue receiving benefits?

A: People can collect benefits for 26 weeks. While there is a federal extension available for an additional 20 weeks, the program is scheduled to end on March 31. To continue to receive benefits, you must be able and available for work, actively seeking work and making three job contacts each week and have no undue restrictions that would prevent you from accepting work.

Q: Where can I get help to look for a job?

A: You are required to register for work at the Workforce Development Division, which specializes in assisting job seekers. Resumes can be posted online at

Q: Is there financial assistance available if I default on credit card, mortgage or other bills as a result of my job loss?

A: The only financial assistance offered by the UI Division is unemployment benefits. For information on your credit card, mortgage or other issues, you should check with credit card and bank mortgage companies and so on.

Q: How many Hawaii residents currently get unemployment benefits? How does that compare with the same time last year? Where does the money come from?

A: There are about 2,000-plus new claims taken every week and 15,000-plus people claiming benefits weekly. In the last week of November, 2,078 claims were filed in Hawaii, compared with 943 claims at the same time last year. The benefits are paid from the Unemployment Trust Fund, to which employers pay contributions based on their payroll.


Compiled by Star-Bulletin reporter Alexandre Da Silva with information from the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.