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Unemployment benefits in Hawaii: how to certify and prove the work search requirement

Hawaii has lifted the waiver on work research requirements in order to receive unemployment benefits, we compiled guidance on how to comply.

Hawaii has lifted the waiver on work research requirements in order to receive unemployment benefits, we compiled guidance on how to comply.

On 20 May, Hawaii Governor David Ige announced that the state would begin requiring those claiming unemployment benefits to report on their progress finding work.

This represents a major shift in policy since the pandemic began. In April 2020 as the pandemic led to massive lock downs and travel restrictions, Hawaii’s economy came to a standstill. Hospitality is one of the state’s largest sectors, and with few travelers coming to the islands, businesses laid off or furloughed nearly twenty percent of the labor force. A year later, the number is down to eight percent.

While real progress has been made, these numbers are high compared to the 2.5% pre-pandemdic average. Visits to the island state have been on the rise and in March hotel occupancy rose to forty-one percent, the highest level recorded since last year.

Businesses are beginning to reopen and many are looking to hire. During his announcement, Gov. Ige spoke to economic distress caused by the pandemic saying “When the pandemic shut down global tourism, there was no work for people in the hospitality sector. In response, the state relaxed the job search requirement for recipients of unemployment insurance benefits.” He continued by saying that the strides made by the state, justify the implementation of work search requirements.

How to certify your work search?

To comply with the requirements, claimants must complete at least “three job search contacts per week.” According to the state a “job search contrasts ”include registering for work on HireNet Hawaii, applying for jobs by submitting a resume, or attending a job fair.” To ensure benefits are received, individuals must “keep a written log of job contacts and must be ready to submit the log to the UI Division upon request.”

What support does the state provide to those looking for a job?

Hawaii’s Workforce Development Council is providing support to those looking for a job. One of the major forms of assistance was the creation of the “American Jobs Center (AJC) -- Hawaii” which is a “unique collaboration of state and local organizations” to connect those looking for work with businesses that want to employ them. Offices are set up across the islands. Services provided:

  • Assistance in looking for jobs

  • Access to a free resource center where job seekers can use computers to apply. 

  • AJC also provided “customized services” at no cost to individuals who are either unemployed or underemployed. 

  • Those who meet federal eligibility requirements may qualify for additional services including “in-depth career counseling, skill testing, and access to training for in-demand jobs. Come into a center and learn about the services that are available.

In January 2020, there were 13,780 individuals unemployed in Hawaii, in April that number was 55,356. These numbers show that there are still major gaps to fill and hopefully these programs will help to continue filling them.


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