Sen. Schatz: Federal aid in the works to prevent pay cuts

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii could get another four billion dollars in federal aid, which should prevent pay cuts for state workers being considered by the governor.

That’s according to U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, who says Congress could agree on the proposal by next month.

Sen. Schatz says every state in the country is dealing with lack of revenues to run the government. So it only makes sense for U.S. lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, to agree on a proposal. And the sooner the better.

“Everybody is expecting that we’re gonna pass another package likely some time in May,” he said.

Schatz says the National Governors Association has asked for federal aid to help stabilize the economy of every state, so Congress is making it a priority. In the Cares Act package, Hawaii received $1.25 billion.

“The package that the National Association of Governors is asking for is $500 billion. So if we got our share of that, we’d be in the $4 billion range for the state of Hawaii,” he said.

During Wednesday’s news conference, the governor said he needs to slash $1.5 billion in the state budget. He also said money from the federal government’s Cares Act cannot be used, but he seems to have changed his mind.

“We are also looking at budget reserve funds and federal monies available through the Cares Act. Government employees are extremely critical in this time of crisis,” said Gov. David Ige.

He says cutting salaries is a last resort, and he’s now exploring all options to avoid it, including tapping into the state’s 375 million dollar rainy day fund.

“We are already looking at cost controls on the expense side. We are also looking at what can be done to access the rainy day fund,” said Ige.

Schatz points out that cutting workers’ pay sends the wrong message, and would make it harder for the economy to recover.

“It is not the time to cut the salaries of your teachers and your public health professionals and your nurses and your airport workers and your bus drivers. We’re gonna need everybody to help us guide our way out of this,” said Schatz.


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