HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii’s unemployed could get some help with a $500 restaurant debit card as early as Oct. 16.

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The state is investing $75 million dollars in CARES Act money to help families and the economy.

Governor David Ige says that he wants to help the restaurant industry because it’s been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. He says that the 116,000 debit cards, which were already mailed out, can inject $1.2 million a day to the local economy.

“We wanted to create a program that would help as many people as possible,” he said.

The state says that those who applied for unemployment benefits in March and were still receiving those benefits in September will be eligible for the $500 debit card. They will be good from Oct. 16 until Dec. 15.

Once you get it in the mail, you will be asked to call a 1-800 number to activate it.

Restaurant owners say the help could not have come at a better time.

“We have not received any federal relief since the spring and are struggling to pay expenses. Some restaurants have closed entirely, unable to pay their rent, food supplies, and staff wages,” said Highway Inn restaurant owner Monica Toguchi.

Businesses pointed out that it not only helps the families and the restaurants, but all of the other businesses that rely on those eateries.

“When restaurants like us have more customers, we buy more from our suppliers and we reinvest the money several times over in our local economy,” said Toguchi.

“Our restaurants are our lifeline as a small farm and when those restaurants are suffering and can’t place orders, farmers like us are really affected,” said Da Farm co-owner Alyssa Lee.

PUA claimants, also known as gig workers, will also get debit cards but the state says that those will be mailed out later.

“It’s a separate database that we needed to get the information from. So we’re working to get that and we’re hoping to then be able to send out another 30,000 something cards to the PUA claimants,” explained Gwen Yamamoto Lau of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

The state points out this will not affect eligibility for those who are already getting Medicaid or food stamps also known as SNAP benefits.

To check your eligibility for the card or for more details, click here.

Watch the full press conference below:

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