Thousands of Hawaii residents wait on federal COVID relief package decision

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — The federal government is still discussing whether they will extend the $600 plus up or lower the weekly amount for those who remain unemployed.

The additional funding ended on July 31.

This weekend, U.S. lawmakers were on Capitol Hill trying to hammer out a new COVID-relief bill.

Democrats want to extend the $600 bonus, some Republicans want to reduce it to $200.

“The fact is they put on the floor the end of this week on the Senate $200. So when you say, well you end up doing the $600, they have no support for that in their party,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “We are unified in the support for the $600. They are in disarray on many of their members, the senate, Republican members don’t want any addition.”

There are roughly 85,000 to 100,000 Hawaii residents who are unemployed and depend on the additional funds for basic needs.

“What I’m anticipating is them [federal government] approving another $1,200 person by person subsidy for those who qualify, which is most people in the middle-class and then in addition to that probably about $200, maybe $300 dollars a week,” explained Lt. Governor Dr. Josh Green.

With tourism still shut down, residents who work in the hospitality industry remain in limbo.

According to the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Hawaii’s unemployment rate dropped to 13.9% in June, and about 85,200 people remain unemployed.

The uncertainty of when tourism will come back has been stressful for many.

“Haleiwa is in big trouble,” said Rep. Sean Quinlan (D) Waialua, Haleiwa, Kaaawa. “I think we’re going to lose a lot of our businesses in the next three to six months. I can tell you every single morning I spend the first three hours of my day answer phone calls just dealing with unemployment and PUA claims, there are so many people that are hurting financially and I think that whether it’s the federal government or state government I think someone needs to step up and plug this gap.”

Earlier this week, Hawaii Governor David Ige vetoed a $100 plus up for those who remain unemployed.

“Either he didn’t know what he was doing, or he assumed the feds are going to take care of this, and I think that’s bad to make that assumption,” said Rep. Gene Ward (R) Hawaii Kai, Kalama Valley.

House Speaker Scott Saiki said he was disappointed in Ige’s decision, but said a rental assistance program did survive the veto.

“The state is currently working on implementing that program that will provide a monthly supplement through December 31 for families that require help with paying their rent,” he said.

If the federal government doesn’t come up with an agreement, then the state’s plus up will be revisited. However, the state’s plus up depends on the federal amount.

In the legislation that was vetoed, Saiki said the $100 plus up would be paid as long as the federal plus up did not exceed $300 a week.

Rep. Ward said the economy needs to reopen soon and people need to follow health guidance to help get to that point.

“If we’ve got an economy that’s closed and we’re spiking that is bad, bad news,” he said.

The state has millions of dollars they can allocate to assist those unemployed, but until a federal decision is made Lt. Gov Green advises residents to “lay low and save money and keep quiet for a few days at home as the spread has gotten higher, and save your resources as best you can.”

There is no word on when the federal government will reach a decision.

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