Big Island Coronavirus Updates

Hawai‘i to Receive ‘Minimum’ of $1.25 Billion in Federal Aid

March 27, 2020, 2:52 PM HST
* Updated March 27, 2:56 PM
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Harry Kim

Congress has earmarked at least $1.25 billion in aid for Hawai‘i as part of its $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package, developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was signed by President Trump Friday.

Hawai‘i’s projected allocation was announced Friday afternoon by Sen. Brian Schatz during a call with Gov. David Ige, the mayors of all four major Hawaiian Islands and key state legislators, Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim said.

“(Sen. Schatz) stressed this was preliminary in regards to the rules of the money and how it will be spent, but one thing he calculated is what the state will get,” Kim said. “He said the allocation for the state of Hawai‘i seems to be in the neighborhood of approximately $1.25 billion.”

Kim said Schatz went on to describe the estimated figure as “the minimum,” the state will receive.

The mayor added he believes the majority of those funds, which will be funneled directly to the state, should be spendable inside of a month.

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“No one knows at this point how the money will be allocated within the state,” said Kim, adding that mayors were told to begin developing a mechanism to make official requests for specific aid related to COVID-19 issues on their respective islands.

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Kim said Hawai‘i County’s top priorities will be helping people who lost their jobs due to the global pandemic and businesses most affected because of the general economic downturn.

Businesses and individuals are hurting substantially across the state. Tourism, far and away Hawai‘i’s top industry, has been decimated by COVID-19.

According to a report by the Hawai‘i Tourism Association, fewer than 1,600 people arrived to island shores by airplane Thursday — a decline of nearly 95% from the same date in 2019. Fewer than 300 of those arrivals were visitors.

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At Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport, only 109 people deplaned Thursday. HTA classified only 18 of them as visitors.

The decline in visitors, spurred in large part by the governor’s mandatory travel quarantine that went into effect Thursday, is expected to hold steady for weeks.

According to a CNBC economic report, 13.3 out of every 1,000 workers in Hawai‘i had filed for unemployment as of Thursday — making it the 10th hardest-hit state in the union in regards to coronavirus-related job loss.

Nearly 20,000 people filed for unemployment insurance in Hawai‘i on Monday, the largest one-day total in the state’s history.

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