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New $200M Rental Assistance Plan in Effect Soon

February 11, 2021, 10:48 AM HST
* Updated February 11, 10:51 AM
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Governor David Ige. Courtesy photo

Hawai‘i plans to soon launch an emergency rental assistance program with the help of $200 million in federal coronavirus aid funding.

The package will help households unable to meet their rent/mortgage payment obligations with financial assistance for up to 12 months. It will also assist those who have issues paying their utility bills. Instead of a stand-alone state program, each county will be allocated a portion of the funding to administer its own. Priority will be given to households in which the annual income is at or below 50% of area median income.

Other changes include the option for landlords to apply for the program on behalf of their tenants. Also, if the relevant utility does not want to accept payments from the government, funding can be sent directly to tenants who can, in turn, pay the utility.

Gov. David Ige said Tuesday that the state’s newest emergency proclamation, which is likely to be issued before end of the week, will extend Hawai‘i’s moratorium on evictions for residential properties another two months.

As to commercial lease eviction moratoriums, the court system thus far has stopped most evictions in general. The governor said his administration will continue to look at models for supporting businesses with commercial leases, but added that the “real challenging part is about how to provide support.”

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“The concern is about how to provide a level playing field that would encourage negotiations and restructuring of lease payments without unfairly advantaging one side over the other,” Ige said.

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A number of measures have been introduced in the State Legislature to address helping those who face eviction from commercial leases, though no explicit plan is in place at the present time.

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