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What is Unemployment Insurance?
Unemployment insurance is a program administered by the Unemployment Insurance Division of the State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. The purpose of this program is to provide temporary financial assistance to workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own and who meet the requirements of the Hawaii Employment Security Law. Unemployment insurance benefits are paid as a matter of legal entitlement and past employment, and not on the basis of need.
Who Pays for Unemployment Insurance?
In Hawaii, employers pay all the costs of unemployment insurance through a payroll tax or reimbursable basis. Employees do not pay any part of their wages to finance the program.
How Do I File for Unemployment Insurance?
You can file a new claim for unemployment insurance benefits or reopen an existing claim by calling our telephone filing system, “Hawaii Tele-Claim.” If you are in the State of Hawaii, call 643-5555. If you are in another state, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, or Canada, call 1-877-215-5793. If you are anywhere else outside of Hawaii, you will not be able to complete your call and file a claim because we have no reciprocal claim filing agreement with other countries. You must use a touch-tone telephone and calls to Hawaii Tele-Claim are free.
You can call Hawaii Tele-Claim, Sunday through Thursday from 6:30 am to 12 midnight, and Friday from 6:30 am to 4:30 pm, Hawaii Standard Time. (If Friday is a state holiday in Hawaii, then Thursday’s hours will be from 6:30 am to 4:30 pm.)
When you call Hawaii Tele-Claim, you need to have your social security number, and if you are not a U.S. citizen, you need your alien registration number available. You will need to provide information for all your employers during the past 18 months, such as the employer’s name, address, zip-code, phone number, dates of employment, and reason for separation. If you were in the military in the past 18 months, you should have your DD-214 (Member 4) available. If you worked for the federal government in the past 18 months, you should have your Standard Form 8 available. (If you do not have your Standard Form 8, you should have your Standard 50 or pay stubs available.)
Reminder: Your claim begins from the Sunday of the week in which it is filed. If you delay and do not file immediately, you will not receive credit for past weeks. Your claim will start only from the week in which you file.
For a complete explanation on how to use Hawaii Tele-Claim to file an unemployment claim by telephone, go to the link found in this Home Page titled, “Unemployment instructions for filing new, additional, and reopen claims using Hawaii Tele-Claim (telephone filing service)” where you will find the Information on Unemployment Benefits Handbook. The instructions for using Hawaii Tele-Claim begin on page 3 of the handbook.
If you cannot file your claim by telephone, you can report in-person to your nearest local office to file a claim in person. The addresses for the unemployment offices are on page 16 in the Information on Unemployment Benefits Handbook.
If you do not have a touch-tone telephone or do not speak English, call Hawaii Tele-Claim and remain on the line for further instructions. If you are hearing-impaired, call your Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) and advise the TRS assistant to call 643-5555 and select Option 2 from the menu.
Who qualifies for Unemployment Insurance?
To qualify monetarily for unemployment insurance, you must be paid sufficient wages in your base period.
The base period is the first 4 of the last 5 completed calendar quarters immediately preceding the effective (starting) date of your claim. Your claim starts with Sunday of the week in which you first apply. For example, if you file your claim on January 5, 2004, then your claim starts on January 4, 2004, and your base period consists of the 4 quarters from October 1, 2002 through September 30, 2003.
To have sufficient wages, you must have earned 26 times your weekly benefit amount. (Your weekly benefit amount is 1/21 of your high quarter wages in your base period.) In the above example, if your highest quarter of earnings were in the July to September 30, 2003 quarter and were $8,400, then your weekly benefit amount would be $400 a week and you would need at least $10,400 total earnings in your base period. You must also have wages paid in at least 2 quarters of the base period.
If you worked in other states besides Hawaii (including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands) in the past 18 months before filing a new claim, you may be able to combine the wages you earned in Hawaii to either qualify for a valid claim or to increase the benefit amount you can receive.
How much do I qualify for and how long can I collect?
If you meet the minimum qualifying wages (i.e. 26 times your weekly benefit amount), then your weekly benefit amount will equal 1/21 of your high quarter wages, rounded to the next higher dollar if not an even dollar amount. However, your weekly benefit amount (WBA) cannot be more than the ‘maximum weekly benefit amount’, which is determined each year. For example, the ‘maximum weekly benefit amount’ for calendar year 2004 is $417 a week.
The maximum amount that you can be paid on your claim is 26 times your weekly benefit amount. For example, if your weekly benefit amount is $417, then the most you can be paid on your claim is $10,842.
The minimum weekly benefit amount is set by law at $5 a week.
Your claim is good for one year; however, you can be paid for only 26 weeks of total unemployment during the one-year period that your claim is effective.
What are the eligibility requirements?
In addition to having been paid sufficient wages to establish a valid claim, you must meet the following eligibility requirements before you can be paid unemployment insurance benefits:
What is Partial Unemployment?
You can earn up to $50 a week and still receive your full unemployment check. If you are still employed and working and earning less than your Weekly Benefit Amount, you may qualify for the difference between your earnings over $50 and your Weekly Benefit Amount. For example, if you earn $100 during a week and your Weekly Benefit Amount is $200, you can still receive $150.
If you are still employed by an employer in the above situation, the following rules apply:
What can I do if I am denied unemployment insurance?
If you received a notice denying you unemployment insurance benefits, you can either request reconsideration or an appeal. Your request must be in writing, either on a department form or by letter, and filed within 10 calendar days after the date the notice was mailed to you.
If you request reconsideration, the Unemployment Insurance Division will decide whether the decision can be reversed; if it cannot, then it may be forwarded as an appeal to the Employment Security Appeals Office or issue you a redetermination affirming the original determination. You have the right to appeal a redetermination affirming the original determination.
If you request an appeal, then you have up to 30 days to file your appeal, if you have good cause for not filing your appeal within 10 days. The Employment Security Appeals Office, which is independent from the Unemployment Insurance Division, will schedule a hearing and notify you and other interested parties (such as your former employer on a voluntary quit or discharge issue) of the date and time of the hearing.
If the appeals officer affirms the UI Division's decision denying you unemployment insurance benefits, you have recourse to file for judicial review by the Hawaii Circuit Court.
What is an Interstate Claim?
If you move to another state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands or Canada either before or after you file a claim against Hawaii, you can still file for unemployment insurance benefits against Hawaii. You can file a new claim or transfer an existing claim by telephone by calling Hawaii Tele-Claim at 1-877-215-5793. The call you make is toll-free. Refer to the paragraph titled “How Do I File for Unemployment Insurance?” for additional information on how to file a claim by telephone using Hawaii Tele-Claim.
Once your interstate claim against Hawaii is established, the state you are filing from becomes your “agent” state. You must follow any instructions for meeting eligibility requirements given to you by your agent state. Since Hawaii remains liable for the payment of benefits, Hawaii will be your “liable” state and will make all determinations and mail your unemployment checks directly to you.
For additional information about interstate claims, go to the link found in this Home Page titled, “Unemployment instructions for filing new, additional, and reopen claims using Hawaii Tele-Claim (telephone filing service)” where you will find the Information on Unemployment Benefits Handbook. The information is found on page 12 under the section titled “Liable Interstate Benefits.”
Are Unemployment Benefits Taxable?
Any unemployment insurance benefits you receive are taxable income. You will be issued Form 1099G at the end of January showing the amount of benefits paid to you. The 1099G is not reduced by any repayments you may have made for overpaid benefits. Therefore, if you repaid any benefits, you must maintain your record of payments, such as receipts, cancelled checks, and billing statement to make adjustments to your taxable income and as documentation for the federal Internal Revenue Service and the State Tax office when you file your tax returns. Contact a claims office if you did not keep receipts and need assistance in furnishing documentation for tax purposes.