$6B coming to Hawaii in federal COVID-19 relief bill

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — U.S. Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono were among several lawmakers to vote on a bill that would offer $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 funding.

If the bill passes, Hawaii could get $6.1 billion in the American Rescue Plan Act, of which a portion would go toward bolstering state and local budgets that have sustained significant tax revenue loss due to the pandemic.

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The newest COVID-19 relief bill includes money for unemployment assistance, small businesses, rent relief, vaccine distribution, schools, health care workers and Native Hawaiian programs.

“This is just a really useful and urgently needed piece of legislation for the state of Hawaii,” explained US Senator Brian Schatz. “So, I’m real proud of this work, and I think it’s going to provide the kind of help that we need to get us through the next several months.”

Sen. Schatz and other senators spent 27 hours finalizing the bill, which passed the Senate this morning.

As it’s currently written, households making under $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000 will be eligible to receive a one-time payment of $1,400.

Unemployment insurance benefits, which were set to expire on March 15, will also get a $300 federal plus up through the first week of September.

Hundreds of millions of dollars will go to rent and mortgage relief, small business assistance and reopening of schools.

State and county assistance – At least $2.2 billion for Hawaii

Funding may be used to bolster state and local budgets that have sustained significant tax revenue loss due to the pandemic

  • $1.6 billion for the State of Hawaii.
  • $365 million for the City and County of Honolulu.
  • $36 million for the County of Hawaii.
  • $13 million for the County of Kauai.
  • $30 million for the County of Maui.

An additional $116 million will also go to the State of Hawaii for critical capital projects to enable work, education and healthcare in response to the pandemic.

“This money is actually for the purpose of plugging a budget hole,” explained Sen. Schatz. “So, I’m quite confident that both state and county governments should be able to avoid the kinds of cuts that were being contemplated. Laying off or furloughing teachers and other government workers just shouldn’t be necessary anymore.”

Unemployment assistance – At least $575 million in estimated funding for Hawaii workers

  • Available to self-employed individuals, part-time workers, independent contractors and gig workers, including ride-sharing drivers.
  • Covers those who are sick, quarantined, furloughed or whose family circumstances keep them from working or reduce their pay as a result of the coronavirus outbreak or government containment efforts.
  • Aid will cover salaries up to about $65,000 through Sept. 6 with an additional $300 per week.
  • Makes the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits collected in 2020 tax free for households whose income was less than $150,000.

Rent and mortgage relief – Estimated $226.5 million for Hawaii

  • $152 million to help Hawaii residents who lost their job or saw a significant reduction in income due to the pandemic to make rent.
  • $18 million in HOME program funding, which provides resources to help communities build and maintain affordable housing.
  • At least $50 million for a new Homeowner Assistance Program to help Hawaii families who are behind on their mortgages or already in foreclosure as a result of the pandemic.

Hawaiian Housing Assistance $6.5 million For Hawaii

  • $5 million to the DHHL COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which is estimated to aid 800 households, including beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries.
  • $1.5 million to DHHL to help homesteaders. Funds can be used for mortgage assistance, assistance after forbearance, principal reduction, utilities, property taxes and other expenses to prevent foreclosure, default or utility shut off.
  • Access to $5 billion nationally to help Public Agencies with emergency Housing Choice Vouchers, increased rental costs and increased administrative costs.
  • Access to $100 million nationally for emergency rental assistance for rural housing.
  • Access to $100 million nationally to states to provide housing counseling services.

Small businesses and non-profits – $60 billion nationally

  • $7.25 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to small businesses and non-profits, to help them maintain existing workforce and pay for other expenses like rent, mortgage, and utilities.
  • $25 billion for a new program at the Small Business Administration (SBA) that will make grants to restaurants, bars and other food and drinking establishments.
  • Grants will be available in an amount equal to a business’ pandemic-related revenue loss, up to $10 million (and $5 million per physical location).
  • An additional $1.25 billion for the SBA’s Shuttered Venue Operators grant program, an assistance program created in the December relief law specifically for theaters, museums and other live entertainment venues.
  •  This bill will now allow eligible entities to access both the SVO grant program and PPP, which was previously prohibited.
  • $15 billion nationally for additional targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan emergency advance grants, reserved for the smallest and most severely impacted businesses in low-income communities.
  • At least $60 million for Hawaii from the renewed State Small Business Credit Initiative administered by the Department of the Treasury.

Vaccine distribution and procurement – At least $20 million for Hawaii

  • Funding will be used to help distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines

Testing, contact tracing and mitigation – $47.8 billion nationally

  • Funding will expand capacity for COVID-19 testing to effectively monitor and suppress COVID–19, conduct surveillance and contact tracing activities and support other COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
  • $1.75 billion nationally for genomic sequencing and surveillance efforts.

Health care – Estimated $150 million for Hawaii

  • $20 million to the Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems, which provide critical access to health education, promotion, disease prevention and primary care services for thousands of Native Hawaiians.
  • $50 million to Hawaii’s community health centers to help address the health care needs of local communities across the state.
  • $40 million for rural health care providers.
  • $15 million to support several mental health programs, including the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant and the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant. The bill also includes funding to support mental health training for health care professionals and public safety officers and aims to promote mental and behavioral health among the health care workforce.
  • $25 million in estimated funding for a new program that will recruit, hire, and train new public health workers in Hawaii

Direct cash payments – Estimated $1.7 billion to Hawaii residents

  • Households will get a one-time cash payment of $1,400 per adult and an additional $1,400 per dependent, including both children and non-child dependents.
  • An eligible family of four will receive up to $5,600.
  • Benefits start to phase out for those with incomes exceeding $75,000 for singles, $112,500 for single parents and $150,000 for married couples.

Nursing homes – $1.4 million for Hawaii

  • At least $428,000 in estimated funding to the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo to upgrade facilities and support its continued operations.
  • $1 million to deploy strike teams to long-term care facilities experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.

Education – At least $634 million in estimated funding for Hawaii schools

  • $391 million for Hawaii in Elementary and Secondary School (K-12) Emergency Relief Funding.
  • At least $78 million must be used to address learning loss.
  • $85 million specifically for Native Hawaiian Education Programs.
  • $98 million from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund to support Hawaii’s colleges and universities.
  • $60 million in estimated funding for Hawaii to support Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions and Asian American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions.

Electric and water utility assistance – $6 million for Hawaii households

  • Additional Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, funding to help Hawaiian Electric, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, and Hawaii gas customers pay their bills.
  • New funding to help low-income households pay for drinking water and wastewater utility expenses.

Child care and welfare programs – $138 million for Hawaii

  • $136.5 million for child care programs including the Child Care and Development Block Grant and child care stabilization grants.
  • $1.4 million in child abuse and neglect prevention programs.

Early childhood education – $3.5 million for Hawaii

  • Funding will support Head Start programs in Hawaii, which provides comprehensive early childhood education and development services to low-income children.

Transportation – $380 million in estimated funding for Hawaii

  • $165 million to ensure that transit services in Hawaii continue operating with enhanced safety procedures for passengers and staff.
  • $70 million in Capital Improvement Grants for Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART) to help the city pay for part of its share by covering the loss in local tax revenue caused by the pandemic.
  • $144 million for Hawaii airports. Funds can be used for operations and expenses related to coronavirus safety procedures as well as a set-aside for aide to in-terminal airport concessions and other service providers.
  • Access to $15 billion in national funding to airlines and contractors for workforce salaries and benefits to prevent layoffs.

Senior and disability support programs – $9.2 million for Hawaii

  • Funding supports several health care, nutrition, and supportive services for older Americans and people with disabilities and their caregivers.

Arts and humanities – At least $2.37 million in estimated funding for Hawaii

  • An estimated $770,400 for Hawaii through the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • An estimated $842,400 for Hawaii through the National Endowment for the Humanities.
  • An estimated $759,086 for the Hawaii State Public Library System through the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Expansion of the Child Tax Credit

  • For 2021, the bill increases the maximum Child Tax Credit (CTC) from $2,000 to $3,000, with an additional $600 for each child under the age of six, and extends the full credit to 17 year old children.
  • The increased amount phases out at $150,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, $112,500 for heads of households, and $75,000 for individual filers.
  • Makes the CTC fully refundable for 2021 so that the lowest income families receive the full credit.
  • These changes are estimated to help over 300,000 children in Hawaii who currently don’t qualify for the full tax credit.

Health insurance

  • Includes premium assistance of 100 percent for COBRA continuation coverage for eligible individuals and families through Sept. 31, 2021.
  • Allow individuals who lost their job-based health insurance to keep their insurance and receive federal funding to pay for the full COBRA premium. 
  • Significantly reduces premiums for the Affordable Care Act marketplace plans for 2021 and 2022, including by increasing premium tax credits and ensuring that no marketplace enrollee, regardless of income, spends more than 8.5 percent of their income on premiums.

In Hawaii, a family of four with an income of $120,000 is projected to save $551 per month on their premium payments.

Emergency federal employee paid leave – $570 million nationally

  •  Funding supports paid leave for federal employees who cannot work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as if they are sick, are caring for a family member who is sick, or are caring for a child whose school or childcare facility is closed.

Food and nutrition programs

  • An extension of 15% in monthly SNAP benefits to ensure that all Americans receive the food they need.
  • The bill also boosts WIC benefits and also supports other nutrition programs.

Agriculture – $4 billion nationally

  • Funding will support the purchase of agricultural commodities from farmers and ranchers, grants, and loans for small and medium-sized food processors and distributors (including seafood) for measures to respond to and protect workers from COVID, and for food supply chain resiliency.
  • $1 billion nationally to provide technical assistance and institutional support for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, including Native Hawaiians.
  • The American Rescue Plan also gives the USDA authority to provide farm loan assistance by making payments of up to 120% of outstanding agricultural loans as of January 1, 2021, made to farmers and ranchers from socially disadvantaged groups. 

Billions of dollars are coming to Hawaii to help families and small businesses. This new package will deliver immediate help to people who have lost their job or can’t make their rent. It provides funding for schools and health care and will give our state more resources to get people vaccinated.

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every family and community in Hawaii and across our country. With so many people still out of work and unable to pay their mortgages and bills, it was crucial for the Senate to pass a sweeping relief bill that meets the urgency of the moment facing our country. By passing the American Rescue Plan, the Senate has taken bold action to put money into peoples’ pockets, help our schools re-open safely, support state and local governments, speed vaccine distribution, expand health care access, and so much more. I urge the House of Representatives to pass this legislation as soon as possible so that President Biden can sign it into law.

U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono

The bill will now go to the House of Representatives, then to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

“The plan from the House is to is to finish the bill on Tuesday and then I know it will go straight to the President’s desk, it’ll be law by the end of Tuesday or the beginning of Wednesday,” Sen. Schatz said. “For Congress to move this quickly on the second biggest rescue package in American history, at the beginning of the Biden administration, it was a really big achievement.”

“I was really proud of the work we did, We stayed on the Senate floor for 26 and a half straight hours. So it was long, it was dozens of votes, it was lots of arguing and zero sleep, but it’s all worth it because help is on the way for the people of Hawaii,” Sen. Schatz concluded.

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