HONOLULU (KHON2)– The state says the original restaurant card program which distributed $500 dollars to those who filed for unemployment benefits has been a success. It has infused more than $26 million into the restaurant industry and its suppliers less than a month after it started.

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The holiday restaurant card is modeled after the same program. This time, businesses are encouraged to buy the cards in increments of $5 to $1,000. City Mill has pledged to buy $20,000 worth to give to its workers.

“The gift cards are more than just a gift as it provides so much more opportunity for Hawaii’s restaurant and its food supply chain. This is truly a business to business effort in getting our local economy back up,” said Steven Ai, president and CEO of City Mill.

HMSA plans to give the cards to those who have been helping others.

“HMSA will be gifting these holiday cards to Catholic Charities. We think that the people who work there have been doing so much for all of us in the community and those who need it the most,” said Jenn Diesman, HMSA Senior Vice-President.

Restaurants say the initial card program has given the industry a much needed shot in the arm, but so many restaurants are still in danger of going out of business. The holiday cards will be good through March 3, and should help restaurant owners get through those critical months.

“Because going into the first quarter, usually it’s a tough time because if you don’t end strong at the end of the year, you usually don’t start the year strong. I think this gives us a fighting chance,” said Victor Lim of the Hawaii Restaurant Association.

The state says this is a good opportunity for other businesses who are doing well during the pandemic to pay it forward. The cards can be purchased from now until Dec. 10 on the Chamber of Commerce website.

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