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Help is on the way for unemployment, rent relief

Posted on Mar 1, 2021 in Capitol Connection, Featured

Good news for unemployed folks awaiting additional benefits approved by Congress in December. System updates for the extended Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations will provide claimants with an additional 11 weeks of benefits as well as an additional $300 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation weekly benefit. The DLIR began processing some 68,000 potential eligible claims last month in batches of 5,000 to 10,000 claims on a nightly basis. Once a monetary determination is available, claimants will be able to file weekly claim certifications going back to the week ending Jan. 2, 2021. Payments will be issued as a lump sum.

Working with an antiquated mainframe system, the DLIR has had to reprogram the old system for every new federal unemployment program. However, DLIR officials recently announced they’ve signed a contract with Idaho-based Solid State Operations to modernize the technology. Hawai‘i’s project follows Solid State’s successful renovation of Alabama’s UI system, which launched in January 2020. In September of last year, Alabama ranked #1 in the nation in benefits payment timeliness. The DLIR says the enhanced platform will be easier to use, offers more automation than its predecessor, and will save money on IT costs, prevent UI-related fraud, waste, and abuse, and provide timely, uninterrupted benefits and modern services to employers.

The COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress in December includes aid to public schools, rent and mortgage relief, support to the state Department of Health for vaccination roll-out and National Guard involvement, and additional funds for unemployment benefits, small business help, and broadband access. “For rent relief, the federal government has broadened support to include utility costs and made the process more flexible,” said Governor Ige. “We’ll be able to help more people because we can provide payments directly to tenants if the landlord doesn’t accept payment. Each county will have its own system, but we’re taking the lessons learned from the state’s previous program.” Anyone who has a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median income, is unemployed due to COVID-19, or is at risk of becoming homeless could be eligible. More details will be provided through each county’s housing office in the next few weeks.

Read more in the March Capitol Connection newsletter.

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