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Furloughed federal workers begin unemployment process

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Oct 04 2013 06:54:45 PM HST
Updated On: Oct 04 2013 08:28:59 PM HST

The deluge has begun at the state labor department as workers begin the process of filing for unemployment benefits. KITV4's Catherine Cruz has more on what you need to know if you are thinking about heading down next week to stand in line.

HONOLULU -

Earl Winders wasn’t sure if he would ever get called.

After waiting for four hours at the state unemployment office, the staff was still on number 14 -- and he was 125.

He blamed Congress for putting him through this ordeal.

"I can’t believe the government is doing this to the people who have given their whole lives to government service and we are the ones hurting for it," said Winders.

If misery loves company, Winders had plenty of it.

After 35 years of federal service, he was having a hard time believing what's just happened.

"It's the first time I have ever had to do unemployment in my whole career.

 It's hard. It takes a lot out of  you. Personal pride goes way down," said Winders.

People have been lining up at 5:30 in the morning even though the Punchbowl street office doesn’t open until 7:45.

All eight of the state labor offices across the islands are feeling the pain.

But it's the Waipahu office-- closest to the Pearl Harbor shipyard that is being overwhelmed with the calls and the lines.

"We are advising claimants to file online. That is the most efficient and convenient way to do it and if they have any kind information from their employer bring it in, whether it’s a notice of furlough or some kind of wage statement," said unemployment administrator Linda Uesato.

With so many people filing, you might wonder if the unemployment well will run dry?

"Given the shutdown situation, because benefits are so essential arrangements have been made so benefits will be provided," said Labor director Dwight Takamine.

That said, labor officials are still taking a very deep breath trying to deal with a very tough situation.

"Over 85 percent of our departmental budget is federal dollars so we are very concerned with the situation," Takamine said.

 If you plan to file, here's a tip. You can do so online until 11pm, even on weekends.

The Labor Department now believes close to 35,000 Hawaii workers may have been put on the sidelines as a result of the shutdown—9,000 non- Department of Defense federal workers and 25,500 DOD civilian employees.

So the number of claims could be huge if this drags on.

But here's another thing to consider-- if the federal government does provide retro-active pay for its workers, those employees will be bound to repay those unemployment checks.

And labor officials say it will be the state that will have to do the collecting.

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