HONOLULU (KHON) — Like many others, Gov. David Ige was feeling positive at the start of 2020. Then, COVID-19 happened.
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“We were coming off a record year, a seventh record year of visitor arrivals,” Ige said. “The economy was doing well, we had predicted healthy revenue streams.”
Faced with a $1.4 billion state budget shortfall, Ige had to make tough calls. He proposed cuts across multiple state departments and mandatory state employee furloughs.
“Everything collapsed. It was this economic challenge that was deeper than 9/11 and the Great Recession combined,” Ige said. “And it happened in a much shorter window! In a matter of 4 weeks, we went from the lowest unemployment rate in the country, to the highest unemployment rate in the country.”
However, the second federal stimulus bill that just cleared the House of Representatives has made Gov. Ige hopeful.
“I’m hopeful there is sufficient funding to help with our budget situation,” Ige said. “So that we can delay furloughs until July.”
Though he adds “at this point in time, because of the reduction in revenues, furloughs are inevitable.”
Ige does hope the recent shipment of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to the islands will curb the spread of the coronavirus.
When asked if he plans on getting the vaccine, Gov. Ige responded “Yes, I want to get it, as soon as it’s my turn. I want to make sure all the healthcare workers get access to the vaccine first.”
In the meantime, the governor is thinking of unique ways to help stimulate the economy.
“Virtually every company has allowed telework in some way,” Ige said. “How do we utilize that opportunity? Let’s say, people can telework from Hawaii for virtually any company in the world. Those are some of the strategies about how we can take lessons learned from this pandemic to improve our economy and get people back to work.”
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