Testing incoming travelers on Big Island may end this year if there’s no funding


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Next month, the Big Island will find itself under new leadership as it continues to battle the spread of COVID-19. Hawaii County has been testing community members and arriving travelers for coronavirus, but those programs may change depending on how much money there is to spend.

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“A lot of things that have been happening with COVID have been guided by the the CARES Act funds, and those funds have to be spent by Dec. 31,” said Hawaii Island Mayor-Elect Mitch Roth.

Roth tells us they have other funds available for testing in communities and that those will probably continue in a different form. But the tests for travelers arriving on the Big Island are being done by county employees or those under contract and being funded through CARES Act money.

“We’d like to continue that and so we’re looking at ways of continuing that, but we don’t have the funds to do it. That may come to an end,” he said.

While most of the county’s budget comes from property taxes, Roth tells us about $19 to $20-million from the Transient Accommodations Tax will be missing due to the drop in tourism. One of his plans of action is to get people back to work safely and looking at streamlining the permitting process.

“One of the big problems is Hawaii has been so anti-business. We need to change that to help our businesses succeed. And when our businesses are succeeding, that means they’re going to be employing people,” Roth said.

The Mayor-elect adds that folks also need to do their part like wearing masks and staying healthy so they don’t affect others.

“Making sure you have that immunity, including vitamin D. You’re exercising, you know, we kept a lot of people in their homes and away from exercise facilities You know, we may need to rethink that.”

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