Mayors announce financial relief programs

Coronavirus

On Thursday, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced a city program to assist families who are struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Individual COVID-19 Hardship Relief Program will begin May 18, with $25 million in monies from the federal coronavirus aid bill or CARES Act.

Mayor Caldwell said the program is Phase 1 in using the City’s $387 million aid to provide relief to those hit hardest to help pay for rent and or mortgage, utilities and child care.

“Here on Oahu, 134,360 of our residents have filed for unemployment. These are our family, our friends, our neighbors,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “During these unprecedented times, we appreciate our partners working with us to respond to the needs of our community.”

 The program includes assistance from nonprofits like Aloha United Way, Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, and Helping Hands Hawaii.

“As we thaw out our economy and you see the first steps in doing that, people are going to need child care to get back to work,” said Mayor Caldwell. “But they’re going to be struggling to make ends meet and this funding can help cover the cost of child care so people can get back to work.”

Eligible households will have to show that they have been impacted financially by COVID-19 and have expenses beyond the income they are receiving.

“The max income is 100 percent AMI, which on Oahu for a family of four, is $90,000,” said Pamela Witty-Oakland, director of Department of Community Services.

“So, we will be looking at unemployment benefits they may have, or other benefits that are coming to that household,” she explained.

She said they will assist in collecting receipts and provide reimbursement to eligible households and will pay the landlord or utility company directly.

The program will provide funding support to qualified residents in amounts up to $1,000 per month for qualified household expenses and up to $500 per month for qualified childcare expenses to alleviate economic hardships caused by the pandemic. Each household may receive benefits as the hardship continues up to six months. Proper documentation will accompany an application to demonstrate hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Qualified expenses will be paid directly to the vendor on behalf of the applicant.

Caldwell said the program can be fixed if needed and will increase funding if necessary.

He said he will work with the city council next week to announce more financial programs.

Witty-Oakland said more details will be posted at oneoahu.org .

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino also announced a relief program for residents with help from Maui Economic Opportunity. MEO is accepting applications for the Hawaii Emergency Laulima Partnership (HELP) program.

To date, MEO has processed 1,677 applications for financial assistance through the program, for a total of $707,000 in assistance. The County of Maui allocated $2 million in general funds to the program.

“This program is providing vital financial support by helping with essentials such as rent and food during the COVID-19 emergency,” Mayor Victorino said. “This support for our families is important until they can safely return to work.”

MEO Chief Executive Officer Debbie Cabebe said: “It has been a humbling and rewarding experience to see MEO and County of Maui staff and volunteers come together to help those who have been impacted by the coronavirus. There is so much need, and the recipients are grateful. We are blessed to live in Maui County where we have so much aloha for one another.”

The H.E.L.P. program offers financial assistance for Maui County residents with essential needs such as food, personal hygiene, medicine, rent, mortgage, utility services, phone or internet services, car payments, and other necessities.

Individuals who need assistance can still apply online at www.meoinc.org.

Applicants are asked to remember to submit all of the required supporting documents.

Individuals who’ve already received assistance can apply for a second round of funding on MEO’s home page. Additional documentation is not needed for second-time applicants, except for a copy of a bill to be paid or for food vouchers.

To qualify, individuals must show:

  • 25 percent or more reduction in income after March 4, 2020,
  • Have less than $5,000 in liquid assets.

Applications can be submitted online or at one of the secured drop boxes located at:

  • Front parking lot of the MEO office at 99 Mahalani Street, Wailuku
  • Front entrance of the Kalana O Maui (County) Building in Wailuku

Molokai and Lanai community members may submit applications online or at their local MEO office:

  • Molokai: 380 Kolapa Place, Kaunakakai
  • Lanai: 1144 Ilima #102, Lanai City

For more information, email information@meoinc.org or call 249-2990.

On the Garden Isle, Mayor Derek Kawakami announced financial support to self-employed workers.

“When our Kauai economic recovery strategy teams began identifying ways to get our economy moving again, among the gaps they recognized were self-employed individuals who are either not eligible for federal assistance or who are struggling while waiting for that help,” said Mayor Kawakami.

On Thursday he introduced the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Funds through a partnership with the County of Kauai and the Kauai government employees federal credit union.

“Qualified applicants will receive financial counseling and may be eligible for 0 percent personal loans of up to $10,000,” he said. “There will be an emphasis on households that have lost income due to COVID-19 and have not yet been able to access government aid programs.”

According to Kawakami, loans will go to qualified applicants on a first come first serve basis and financial review will be based on pre- COVID-19 income.

He said households who might be served by the program include taxi or service industry drivers, independent contractors, small business owners, legal vacation rental or long-term rental owners, and gig workers.

“You do not to be a KGEFCU member to apply,” he said.

To apply visit kgefcu.org or for info email covid19@kgefcu.org or call 808-245-2463.

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