HONOLULU (KHON2) — A big hit to Hawaii’s only island yet to record a case of COVID-19 was felt Monday, as 752 workers were furloughed by Four Seasons Resorts on Lanai. The company operates two hotels on Lanai, with one in Manele and one in Koele.
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“This is huge. You’re talking over two-thirds of the employment of the island, it’s going to brutal,” District State Representative Lynn DeCoite said.
Lanai has a sparse population of just over 3,000 people. Adding to the pain of the furloughs of 752 of those is the high cost of living, which will become more expensive Tuesday.
That’s when a 46% rate increase by shipping company Young Brothers is set to take effect, with the cost expected to be placed on customers.
“This will put a big damper,” DeCoite added. “I’m glad that the stimulus is going to kick in. For the extra $300 should play an important role here. So I got to kudo the governor for that one, and thank him at this time because they are going to need it at this time. They do also have a high cost of living.”
With tourism at a standstill, the travel industry has been taking big cuts to keep business afloat.
It was a heartbreaking day for many at Hawaiian Airlines, where 989 flight attendants and pilots were let go. More than 1,000 Hawaiian Airlines workers will also be laid off on Sept. 15.
Both Four Seasons and Hawaiian Airlines had some business functioning with inter-island travel before the state’s August surge in cases which UHERO Executive Director Carl Bonham says has put the economy back at the dreadful levels of April.
“We’ve completely reversed a lot of the progress we’ve made, even before shutdown was announced on Oahu,” Bonham said.
He added that to put light at the end of the tunnel for the tourism industry while helping public health, a plan to reopen trans-pacific travel needs to be created.
“We need a finalized tourism reopening plan,” Bonham said. “We’ve got visitors coming in every day, we’d be better off if they came in pre-tested.”
Four Seasons added in it’s WARN Notice that furloughs are intended to be temporary, but could become permanent. Hawaiian Airlines says it hopes to avoid more cuts with federal funding, but relief packages have yet to be agreed upon in Congress and The Senate.