A look at how the State of Hawaii is spending its COVID relief funds

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii Governor David Ige highlighted ways how the coronavirus relief funds are being spent in the state.

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He said that 98 percent of the funding was set aside for COVID response and recovery efforts. Gov. Ige added that every penny will be spent.

“We do not plan to return any of the coronavirus relief funds. Any funds unspent will be placed in the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund,” Gov. Ige said.

The State of Hawaii initially received $1.25 billion from the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund. The governor said that most of the funding was allocated, but the remaining balance still sits at $599.7 million.

Nearly $5 million of those funds will go to adding more workers to help process uninsurance claims. The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Director Anne E. Perreira-Eustaquio said that a total of 300 workers will be added.

“It’s going to consist of 200 agents and of those 200 agents, 50 started today,” Perreira-Eustaquio said on Sept. 30. “As of Monday, we will have 120 on board, and as of the end of the week next week, we’ll have 200 agents.”

She said that 100 other staffers will be a part of an adjudication center for outstanding cases.

The House Committee on Labor and Public Employment Chair Rep. Aaron Johanson said that this is long needed help to get through the backlog of unemployment claims.

Johanson said, “Those people who have the most complex dispute as to their eligibility, they are stuck in this adjudication process and they need the very specialized help that an adjudicator can provide.”

The state will also be using $75 million towards the Hawaii Restaurant Card program. This program will give those who are unemployed a pre-paid $500 card to use at local restaurants. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Sherry Menor-McNamara said this type of immediate aid can help stimulate the local economy.

Menor-McNamara said, “The program will run from Oct. 20 to Dec. 15, 2020. Eligible individuals will receive a preloaded non-transferable card registered to their name which will be mailed directly to them.”

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