Hawaii Unemployment Benefits Eligibility Guide & FAQ

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In the state of Hawaii, many workers who are temporarily out of work rely on unemployment benefits to see them through. As long as an out-of-work employee meets the state's eligibility requirements, they will qualify for a weekly benefit amount of between $5 and $648. Anyone who lives and works in Hawaii will want to get an understanding of the eligibility requirements and answers to some of the most common questions about state benefits and federal pandemic unemployment benefits.

Eligibility for Hawaii UI Benefits

Every state has an unemployment insurance (UI) plan paid for by employers. The intention of this insurance is to provide financial assistance for workers who are laid off through no fault of their own. It assists them until they find other employment. But the UI plans are not uniform and vary state to state.

Hawaii's unemployment benefits plan is administered by the UI Division of the Hawaii State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR). In order to qualify, a worker must meet several requirements. First, they must be out of work through no fault of their own. That means they cannot have been fired for misconduct or fault.

In addition, they must be actively seeking work and ready to accept work. In fact, a claimant must register for work with the State Workforce Development Division and post an online resume with the job-search website HireNet Hawaii within a week after applying for benefits.

Financial Requirements for Hawaii UI Benefits

Finally, the worker must have been employed in the recent past and earned at least a certain amount during their base period to meet the financial requirements. The base period is a 12-month period comprised of the earliest four of the latest five compete calendar quarters before the claim was filed. For example, if a worker files a claim on April 1, 2021, the base period would be January 1 to December 31, 2020.

A Hawaii worker qualifies for benefits if they earned wages in at least two of the calendar quarters in their base period and also earned at least 26 times their weekly benefit amount in the entire base period.

FAQs and Answers

Q: How do I apply for UI benefits in Hawaii?

A:​ To apply for UI benefits in Hawaii, the first step is to go to Hawaii's UI website and watch a video that walks applicants through the process. Then fill out a UI claims form online. The claims form requires personal information such as name, address and Social Security number, and also employment information such as name and address of last employer, wages earned and reason for discharge. It will also be necessary to prove prior income with tax documents.

Q: How much will I get in UI weekly benefits in Hawaii?

A​: A worker who qualifies for UI benefits in Hawaii will get a weekly benefits check. The amount of the check is determined by a formula. The DLIR takes the amount the claimant earned in the highest-earning quarter in the base period. That amount is divided by 21, and the resulting number is the person's weekly UI benefit. The minimum weekly benefit is $5 in Hawaii, and the maximum weekly benefit amount is $648.

However, the federal government enacted legislation offering an additional $300 a week in supplemental pandemic UI benefits to anyone eligible for unemployment insurance in any state. This additional benefits program lasts through September 6, 2021. A claimant does not need to file a separate application to receive federal pandemic UI benefits.

Q:​ ​For how many weeks can I get benefits?

A:​ Under Hawaii state law, an unemployed person who qualifies for UI benefits can get their weekly benefit amount for 26 weeks. However, this time period has been extended by federal pandemic unemployment legislation to a maximum of 70 weeks.

Q:​ ​Can a self-employed worker or a gig worker get unemployment benefits in Hawaii?

A:​ Under state law, only an employee whose employer pays into the UI program can get UI benefits in Hawaii. This is generally true in all states. However, eligibility was expanded to include independent contractors, self-employed persons and gig workers under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act. This law was enacted after the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the closure of many businesses across the country and unprecedented unemployment. The CARES Act currently is set to expire on September 6, 2021.

Q:​ ​Do I have to seek other work while I am getting UI benefits?

A:​ One of the requirements for a worker to be eligible for UI benefits in Hawaii is that they are willing to work and aggressively seeking suitable work. In Hawaii, a UI claimant must register for work with the State Workforce Development Division and post an online resume with the job-search website HireNet Hawaii within a week of applying for benefits. The website will assist a worker to figure out the types of work they qualify for and help them to prepare a CV and cover letters for jobs. The worker must make at least three job contacts every week.

Note that this requirement has been tempered a bit by the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) legislation. If a worker has COVID-19, is caring for someone with COVID-19, or is looking after a child whose school has been closed because of COVID-19, it is not necessary that they look for work in Hawaii or any other state.

Q:​ ​Can I get unemployment insurance benefits in Hawaii if I quit my job?

A:​ The basic rule in all states is that an employee can get UI benefits if they lose their job due to no fault of their own. This means that if an employee is fired for stealing from the company they work for, they will not qualify for UI. On the other hand, if they are fired for carelessness, that might not be considered misconduct in Hawaii.

If an employee quits a job, they are generally seen as being the cause of their own job loss and thus not qualified for UI benefits. However, if they quit for good cause in Hawaii, they may still be able to qualify for unemployment benefits. Good cause means that the worker had a real, substantial and compelling reason to quit, a reason that would have caused a reasonable worker who genuinely wanted to keep the job to do the same. For example, if an employee quit because of constant sexual harassment that the employer refused to deal with, the worker may still be able to collect benefits.

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