Laid-off workers were frustrated Wednesday as they struggled to access the state website dedicated to unemployment insurance.

Unemployment in Hawaii is anecdotally spiking this week as tourism plummets and bars and restaurants close in response to fears about the novel coronavirus pandemic. Gov. David Ige has even asked tourists to stay away and bars and restaurants to close or switch to takeout-only in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.

Bill Kunstman, a spokesman for the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, told Civil Beat that an increase in unemployment applications Wednesday caused the state website — uiclaims.hawaii.gov — to slow. Kunstman said he wasn’t sure how long the delays lasted but that the state reset the webpage Wednesday afternoon in an effort to fix the problem.

Hawaii’s unemployment office wants people to apply online but its website is having problems.

The unemployment office is no longer accepting walk-ins due to the pandemic. Instead, the office urges people to apply online or call to schedule a phone appointment. The state is waiving the typical one-week wait period to receive the money.

Deivy Rosa lost his job as a server at Buho, a rooftop restaurant in Waikiki, Tuesday just half an hour after Gov. David Ige announced that restaurants and bars should close. He says he’s not sure how long he’ll be without a job — the restaurant’s closure could be as short as two weeks, or much longer. He only has $400 saved and a $700 rent bill looming.

But when Rosa tried to apply for unemployment benefits Wednesday afternoon, he was unable to create an account, even after trying to sign in on his Android phone, iPad and his roommate’s desktop computer.

The 29-year-old still wasn’t able to sign into the website late Wednesday afternoon even after the state reset it. His roommate was unable to apply for unemployment too.

In an email late Wednesday afternoon, Kunstman said, “We now know that the “resetting” did not last long and the program continues to be slow. We’re working with our contractor to address the issue and will likely know by tomorrow morning if we’re able to alleviate the problem or if it will require additional work.”

The whole situation, Rosa said, was alarming.

“I depend on my job to pay my bills and support my life and if my job is closed for the next couple weeks, I can’t make any money,” he said. “And if I can’t find something, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

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