$200M rental aid program to cover housing and utilities, Ige says

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii is preparing to distribute $200 million in federal aid across all counties to go toward rental assistance.

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Gov. David Ige on Tuesday announced that the latest funds from the December stimulus package will provide more flexibility in rental aid to include payments covered for rent, mortgage and utilities.

There will also be an option for the state to make direct payments to tenants if landlords refuse to accept funds from the emergency rental assistance program, which the state saw happen last year. Landlords and tenants can request assistance to cover up to 12 months.

Ige said there will be an emergency proclamation announced next week relating to the extension of the eviction moratorium for residential properties for another two months.

As Hawaii continues to face a budget deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state is seeking federal funding to repay a $700 million trust fund loan. Federal aid will also help cover unemployment insurance, reduce program cuts and assist in labor savings.

However, the biggest impediment the state faces, Ige said, is the need for vaccines.

“The vaccine rollout has been going smoothly, although we all recognize that we need more vaccines,” Ige said. “We did have a call with the White House this morning and all states are saying that the biggest challenge in the vaccine rollout is not enough doses.”

The state is only receiving 40,000 doses per week and can easily scale to 100,000 doses, according to Ige, who submitted a grant application to FEMA requesting $175 million to fund the vaccination program.

Due to the rising reports of scams, Ige also wanted to remind the public that all COVID-19 vaccines are free. More than 100 sites across Hawaii are able to administer vaccines.

During Tuesday’s conference, Ige said he continues to negotiate with unions on a financial plan that reflects the need for labor savings.

In December, Ige delayed his plan for mandatory furloughs to begin on Jan. 1. He believes it will be less than two-days per month as previously discussed.

“The state prefers furloughs because it allows state to restore pay as the economy improves,”said Ige. “In the the negotiations, we need to achieve labor savings in order to balance our budget and there are many ways to get there. It can be pay cuts. It can be furloughs. It can be a combination of both.”

The unions say they will take action against the governor if a furlough is imposed before their contract expires in June of 2021.

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