Hawai‘i Rolls Out a New System to Get Unemployment Benefits to More People

Those who didn’t necessarily qualify for regular unemployment, such as freelancers and independent contractors, can now take advantage of the state’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
Photo: Courtesy of brooke cagle / unsplash


As the state continues to chip away at more than 220,000 unemployment claims filed since March 1, Gov. David Ige announced a new unemployment portal operated by the state. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program launched this week at pua.hawaii.gov to help people who previously were not eligible for benefits.


Independent contractors such as musicians and freelance writers are now eligible, along with people whose jobs were affected by COVID-19 because: their workplaces closed; their new jobs were rescinded; they were ordered to quarantine; they have to care for kids not in school or others diagnosed with COVID-19; and more. Check your eligibility by filling out the pre-application here.


The new program is part of the national coronavirus rescue package. More than 2,000 pre-applications have been submitted and more will be accepted, though claims won’t be processed for a few more weeks, says Rona Suzuki, director of the state Department of Taxation.


Gov. David Ige says that payments received through PUA will not be subject to state general excise tax.


To apply, you’ll need to have your social security number, driver license or state ID (noncitizens should have their U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ID number); home and mailing addresses; phone number; email address, 2019 wage records (such as pay stubs, bank statements or tax forms); and your bank account and routing numbers. More features will be added to the application by May 15, so those who have filled out the pre-application will be notified by email. There is no date set yet for when payments will begin.


Read more stories by Katrina Valcourt