HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu households that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are getting help in the form of $500 cash cards.

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The city is using pre-existing lists to determine who gets the $500 cards. The list includes 4,000 residents who have applied and qualified for COVID-related aid from the city.

The Honolulu’s Office of Economic Revitalization Director Amy Asselbaye said the cards are expected to reach households by Dec.7 and they will have until Dec. 27 to use those funds before CARES Act money expires.

“Our household hardship relief was one of the major programs that we’re drawing these names, so if you have received funding through that program you should expect a card in the mail,” Asselbaye said. “Otherwise we are not allowing people to apply to be able to use the card because we have a very strict timeline.”

Besides the strict timeline for when to use the card, the $500 can only be used to buy food and essentials at grocery and convenience stores.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell said there are restrictions on how the card is spent. The card cannot be used to purchase bus passes or gift cards.

“Spend it appropriately,” Caldwell said. “To buy food, not to buy alcohol and not to buy tobacco.”

The card uses a certain merchant code that does not apply to farmers markets.

However, local farmers like Aloun Farms may see a trickle effect. The general manager Alec Sou said their fruits and vegetables can be found in most grocery stores.

“We know people will be going to the store and definitely doing holiday meals with family and hopefully with some encouragement they will focus on local produce,” Sou said.

The new city program focuses on food and basic necessities, but Caldwell said this could be the start of a new way to distribute aid fast and directly to residents.

“This card will be used in the future,” Caldwell said. “It could be a card that you give to homeless individuals to buy food. It could be a card given to people when a hurricane is coming to stock up on 14-days of food.”

For more information on who will be receiving a card later this week, click here.

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