Big Island Coronavirus Updates

Hawai‘i County Set to Receive $80 Mil in Federal Funds

May 15, 2020, 5:14 PM HST
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More than $80 million from the federal CARES Act funds have been earmarked to Hawai‘i County, state leaders confirmed Friday afternoon.

The state of Hawai‘i is set to receive $1.25 billion in federal funding to support the four counties in providing benefits for their residents and to fund the state government’s health response during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic meltdown. The House Finance Committee passed a bill that details how the money will be divided up between the counties and state departments.

It is unknown when the funds will be distributed at this time.

Senate Bill 75 earmarks specific portions of the CARES Act funds to be distributed among the counties to provide for their residents’ immediate needs such as food and rent support, and to give state departments specific funding for their virus containment response needs such as airport screening, contact tracing, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for hospitals.

Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke said the committee members along with the Senate Ways & Means Committee have together taken on the responsibility of directing these monies be used to support families and to contain the spread of COVID-19.

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Luke said the state is wrestling with an economic challenge of keeping the unemployment insurance program afloat which is expected to be depleted before July and will need to pay out claims of $500 million a month, to cover a $1.2 billion shortfall in the state budget.

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The Legislature is currently working on adjusting the state budget to deal with the economic situation.

“We have to make sure the unemployment fund is solvent,” Luke said. “Unemployment benefits provide people the ability to pay for food, rent, and basic needs.”

Luke said the state is looking to the counties to use the CARE Act funds before they expire at the end of the year to provide families with basic living support programs while the state deals with the larger financial issues.

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The funds will be allocated as follows:

  • Honolulu City & County: $387,176,021
  • Hawai‘i County:  $80,009,671
  • Maui County: $66,598,757
  • Kaua‘i County: $28,715,021

Other funding in the bill includes:

  • $40 million for the Department of Defense for response activities
  • $36 million for the Department of Transportation for thermal screening at airports statewide
  • $1.3 million for the Department of Labor Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
  • $8.145 million for the Department of Labor for information technology, systems and staffing
  • $2 million for the Department of Human Services for EBT (food stamps) and SNAP technology services
  • $14 million for the Department of Health for outbreak and control, contact tracing, and PPE

The committee also passed a senate bill that transfers the remaining $635 million of the CARES Act money into the State’s Emergency Budget Reserve or “rainy day” fund to hold until a decision can be made in June how to best use the funds.

All $1.25 billion of CARES Act funds provided to Hawaiʻi must be spent by Dec. 31, 2020.

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