Hawaii Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

In this article...
  • Hawaii unemployment benefits support people who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Find out who's eligible for assistance and how to apply.

Employers in Hawaii pay tax toward the state's Unemployment Trust Fund. The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations manages this fund and distributes it to state residents who are unemployed or working reduced hours. If you're out of work for reasons that aren't your fault, you may be entitled to Hawaii unemployment benefits.

Who Is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Hawaii?

The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations establishes benefits eligibility by looking at your previous earnings and the reasons for your unemployment. Generally, you'll receive benefits if you meet minimum earnings requirements and are unemployed for reasons that aren't your fault. However, it's essential to understand the eligibility criteria for Hawaii unemployment benefits in detail to determine whether you qualify.

Minimum Base Period Earnings

Hawaii adds your earnings from insured employers (companies paying unemployment insurance tax contributions) over a base period. This period is usually the first four of the last five calendar quarters. However, if you don't meet the eligibility criteria through the regular base period system, the department will consider your earnings over the last four completed calendar quarters as an alternative.

To qualify, your earnings must equal or exceed your weekly benefit amount multiplied by 26. You must also have received income for at least two quarters during the base period, and the calculation includes any insured wages earned in other states. 

Job Separation Criteria

You can generally receive Hawaii unemployment benefits if your employer laid you off due to a lack of work or business closure. You might also be eligible if your employer reduces your regular hours to part-time, and your new earnings equal less than your weekly benefit amount. 

Your application will likely be denied if you lost your job because of workplace misconduct, and your ex-employer must provide evidence of this. You might be eligible for unemployment benefits if you lose your income due to a labor dispute, depending on the circumstances and whether you can continue work.

You can't claim Hawaii unemployment benefits if you left your job voluntarily unless you have a compelling, work-related reason. Applicants must show evidence of their attempts to resolve the situation with their employer to be eligible.

Maintaining Eligibility

Hawaii requires people receiving unemployment benefits to fulfill various criteria throughout their claim period. Meeting these criteria allows you to maintain your eligibility, while failing to do so could cause you to lose some or all of your entitlement. 

  • Submit Claim Certifications: The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations will tell you whether you need to submit a claim weekly or biweekly.
  • Register with the Workforce Development Division (WDD): You must apply for reemployment services with your local WDD and submit an updated resume on HireNet Hawaii to help you find work (excluding certain union members).
  • Engage with reemployment services: You are obliged to participate in any assessments, employment opportunities or other services offered to you by the WDD.
  • Be ready and able to work: Benefits recipients must be physically and mentally well enough to work throughout their claim period and have suitable childcare arrangements. If you're unavailable at any point because of childcare issues, sickness or for any other reason, it could change your benefits entitlement.
  • Accept any suitable job offer: You must accept any genuine job offer that is appropriate for your skills and experience. Turning down a suitable position could result in loss of benefits unless you have a compelling reason.
  • Respond to correspondence: The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations or the WDD may contact you at various points during your claim period. For example, they may wish to review your eligibility or resolve issues with your claim. Failure to respond could affect your benefits eligibility.

How Do You Apply for Hawaii Unemployment Benefits?

You can apply for Hawaii unemployment insurance online through the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations portal. You'll need to create an account and log in to submit your claim. It's essential to file as soon as you become unemployed because your claim begins from your filing date. Claims can be submitted between 6:30 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and between 9:00 a.m. and 11.00 p.m. during weekends. 

The same portal can also be used to submit your weekly or biweekly claims. You should report any earnings received during the relevant period and provide proof of at least three new work connections made while searching for jobs. 

How Much Do You Get From Hawaii Unemployment?

If you qualify, you'll receive weekly unemployment benefits payments. Each payment equals 1/21 of what you earned during your highest-paid base period quarter, up to a maximum of $648.

The department may deduct any retirement income from your weekly benefits amount, and any earnings over $150 per week will also affect your payment total. You can claim unemployment insurance for a maximum of 26 weeks.

You'll need to pay tax on your unemployment insurance payments, so it's essential to set aside enough to cover your liability. Alternatively, you can request that the department deducts tax before sending your payments. 

You'll usually receive your first benefits payment via direct deposit approximately 3 weeks after you file. However, incomplete or inaccurate information on your application could cause delays. 

What Happens if Unemployment Claims in Hawaii Are Denied?

You'll receive a Notice of Decision on Unemployment Insurance Claim after the department assesses your application. This document will explain the reasons for denial if you're ineligible for benefits. If you disagree with the decision, you can submit an appeal through the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations' online portal. Alternatively, you can appeal to the Employment Security Appeals Referees’ Office (ESARO) in writing at:

830 Punchbowl Street
Room 429
HI 96813

Your appeal should include a copy of the decisions and your reasons for requesting reconsideration. Generally, you should appeal within 10 days of the date on your Notice of Decision letter, although ESARO may extend the appeals window up to 30 days if you have mitigating circumstances. Continue to make your weekly or biweekly claim submissions while your appeal is under consideration, or you won't be entitled to backdated payments. 

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