First-hand account as 50+ educators volunteer to ease unemployment backlog

Leanne Teves, Iroquois Point Elementary student activities coordinator, shares her experience

A heartfelt mahalo to the 56 Hawaii State Teachers Association members who juggled their professional and personal schedules to volunteer to attack the state’s backlog of unemployment claims because of the pandemic.

They joined other public-sector union member volunteers from the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly to process claims and field phone calls at the Hawaii Convention Center.

“I am grateful to the dozens of HSTA members who have been joining me since April 23 to support individuals and families throughout the state who were affected by sudden unemployment due to COVID-19,” said HSTA Vice President Osa Tui Jr. “As the school year begins to wind down, I hope that more HSTA members will be willing to support the endeavor once June arrives. Every little bit helps to ensure that the families of our keiki will be able to get through this crisis with a little less anxiety.”

Fellow volunteer, Leanne Teves, a student activities coordinator at Iroquois Point Elementary, shares her perspective below.

“I was humbled to work on calling many claimants over the course of several days to assist them as much as possible with completing an arduous task, with the end result being receiving money so they could make ends meet. It was a very rewarding experience.

Some claimants shared their struggles, which I listened to with an empathetic ear. I took note of the excellent customer service skills those employed with the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) displayed as they maneuvered the volunteers and were asked to intervene with some of the calls. This was a big takeaway for me, which I can apply to my job as student services coordinator at Iroquois Point Elementary School. This is my 20th year at the school and I never stop learning how to do my job better.

I have attached a picture that captures my first two days of volunteering at the Hawaii Convention Center. I wore my HSTA shirt on the first day and the second day wore my Iroquois Point Elementary shirt with much pride. I served several other shifts through this month of May. I met several fellow HSTA and HIDOE family members during the course of assisting DLIR. I am grateful to have had this opportunity and ever so grateful to my principal, Ofelia Reed, for sharing me with DLIR. Thank you to the leadership at HSTA for allowing this collaboration to happen in such unprecedented times.

I look forward to our state fully recovering. I look forward to the recovery years that follow, serving the children and their families in the state of Hawaii.”

Since many 10-month public school educators will have the summer off starting June 1, we’d like to encourage you to volunteer to help process unemployment claims.

The next volunteer training session for DLIR’s call center at the Hawaii Convention Center will take place this Saturday, May 30, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sign up for Saturday’s training session

Signups are limited to 30 employees and will be first come, first served. You will receive an email confirmation as well as details for reporting on Saturday. Once the signups are full, the link will no longer work and you have missed the signups.

Volunteers must be current state employees and not filing for unemployment benefits.

Volunteers are requested to commit to at least three volunteer shifts per week for the duration of this situation. If you cannot commit to the weekly shifts, please do not sign up for training. Shifts are available Mondays through Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 12:30 to 6 p.m.

Current volunteers can sign up for next week’s shifts here

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Author: Keoki Kerr