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Bill would give money to struggling businesses along rail route

A bill introduced at the state Legislature would allocate money to help small businesses struggling along Honolulu's rail project.

"It's noticeably a bit slower. We do have a lot more congestion in front of the shop," said Al Tod, owner of Al's Tinting on Kamehameha Highway in Aiea.

Tod says he doesn't think business will improve. "I feel like we're going to have some decline, major decline in the future," he said.

Some lawmakers want to help business owners like Tod.

House Bill 1588 would help these businesses by providing them with financial assistance.

"We know that a lot of businesses are being interrupted by the development of rail, so we want to really protect our small businesses," said Rep. John Mizuno, D, Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights.

The bill would establish a "Rail Business Interruption Fund." The money would come from three sources, at least $2 million from contractors, the county and the general fund.

Businesses could receive $25,000 or 60 percent of annual business losses, whichever is the lesser amount.

It would help companies that have seen revenue drop by at least 25 percent.

The company must also be in business for at least two years, have 25 or fewer employees, and be in good standing with taxing and licensing authorities.

"We have 50 employees here and that's not going to help us at all," said Linda Matsuo of Shiro's Saimin Haven.

Shiro's in Waimalu has been struggling for over a year and would not qualify. Efforts by rail officials, including a trolley for customers, have not helped.

"What might you be forced to do in this new year?" KHON2 asked.

"Starting from January 2nd, our sales have plummeted. It's even worse than 2015. We're going to have to cut warm bodies now," Matsuo said.

This is a companion bill. A hearing has not yet been scheduled.


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