New Federal Guidelines Issued for Reopening of States
Despite the state’s continued downward trend in COVID-19 cases, Hawai‘i does not satisfy the Federal Government’s criteria for a phased economic reopening.
During a press conference Thursday, Gov. David Ige said with 11 new cases reported, it gives the state grounds for optimism, but there is still a long way to go.
“Hawai‘i is fortunate,” he said. “We appear to be flattening the curve.”
Ige said he received the revised guidelines for reopening Thursday, which require a downward trajectory of cases for a 14-day period.
“We’re making progress, but we’re not there yet,” he said. “So, please continue with your hard work and perseverance. We will get through this together.”
Ige emphasized the next few weeks are critical.
“Let me remind you, that social distancing is the only way we’re going to flatten the curve,” he said. “More difficult decisions will have to be made before we return to a new normal.”
With a drastic decrease in tax collections, Ige said the state anticipates a $1.5 billion shortfall. More than 225,000 residents have filed for unemployment benefits, draining the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund. The governor added he is looking to Federal Government to replenish it with additional funds.
While state leaders expect to have a clearer picture of the state’s fiscal situation in May, Ige said, Hawaii’s economy is at a complete standstill, and more difficult decisions have to be made.
Union leaders throughout the state say David Ige has floated the idea of a 10% to 20% cut to all state workers including teachers and nurses.
On Thursday, Ige emphasized no decisions have been made regarding salary cuts to government employees assured everyone that he is exploring all options before any decisions about salary reductions for government employees
Salary reductions and furloughs are the last thing anyone wants to see happen, the governor said. However, he added, $1.5 billion is a lot to make up and the state must look at everything.
“If there are salary cuts to be made, it will start with me and my cabinet members,” Ige said.
Ige is also looking at ways to access the Rainy Day Fund, which requires action by the State Legislature, and they are in discussions to determine what is possible.
Ige said the state has already been looking at cost controls on the expense side along with budget reserve funds and federal monies available through the CARES Act.