How postponing lifting travel restrictions could affect workers in the tourism industry

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The governor and the mayors met for the second day to discuss plans to lift the quarantine on August 1.

Many have said this is a critical decision, as opening with COVID-19 cases soaring on the mainland could pose a health risk. At the same, pushing back the date to loosen restrictions could mean businesses and workers may suffer more.

When the travel restrictions first started, thousands of hotel workers were furloughed. As time goes on, more and more of those furloughs are turning into layoffs.

Just last week, The Laylow Waikiki announced that it is laying off 65 of its 129 employees, which they say is a third of its employees.

At Hilton Grand Vacations, furloughs continue. It announced it is furloughing workers at five of its properties on the Big Island and Honolulu. In a letter it said:

“While we continue to hope these furloughs will be temporary, in light of the current and unexpected circumstances, we are now unsure when we will be able to return the affected employees to work on a consistent basis.”

That has been a big worry for workers who have relied on unemployment to get by, especially with the extra $600 dollars a week from the CARES Act, which is set to run out at the end of July.

“If that’s not extended then all people are going to have is regular unemployment and that’s not going to be enough money for people to take care of their essential needs, their basic needs,” said Affron Herring, a furloughed Hilton Hawaiian Village worker.

He said another major worry is medical insurance. Hotel workers union Local 5 said many non-union workers lost their medical insurance at the beginning of June.

The union was able to extend medical coverage using the union’s trust fund to the end of September, but that will run out too.

“If they push it back further, what type of extension would they give the workers? Because of right now our medical coverage is almost about to expire as well,” said Herring.

Kauai County Mayor Derek Kawakami suggested one idea that could provide work for hotel workers. He wants to look at having a modified quarantine, where visitors are confined to a designated resort area.

“They can have a run of the property and enjoy the amenities, and yet keep our own people safe as we deal with this pandemic, both locally and across the state,” said Mayor Kawakami.

KHON2 has reached out to the governor’s and county mayors’ offices and is still waiting to hear back on if a decision was reached in Thursday’s meeting regarding lifting the quarantine on Aug. 1.

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