The visitor industry braces for layoffs and lawmakers rush to help

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2)–People with jobs related to tourism are already suffering from the drop in visitor arrivals.

Hotel workers said that they are concerned for their health and they want to remain safe but they also need to pay their bills.

“I’m super scared, but we still need to work,” said Aina Iglesias.

Iglesias is a front desk agent at Doubletree By Hilton Hotel Alana, Waikiki Beach. She’s just one of thousands in the tourism industry dealing with coronavirus fallout.

She said it’s like a double-edged sword.

“It just creates a lot of stress for us who work in the hospitality industry because now we have to think about two things. One is getting laid off and then one is getting coronavirus.”

Iglesias said she hasn’t been laid off yet, but she’s bracing for it because she has low seniority.

A spokesperson for the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) said they expect more than 2,300 layoffs–a number likely to increase.

Lawmakers are taking action.

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz introduced the coronavirus Worker Relief Act Thursday.

“The bill is very simple the idea is to provide unemployment insurance for people who are economically dislocated due to coronavirus,” Schatz explained.

He said it expands the current law to include a pandemic situation and covers a wider range of people.

“You’ve got Uber drivers and people who don’t have an employer. And normally they can’t claim unemployment insurance, but in this instance they will be able to access unemployment insurance because they’re as badly hurt as anyone in this situation.”

Schatz said the money would be coming from the FEMA disaster relief fund.

“It’s got $42 billion in there and it is what is tapped in a natural disaster situation to provide unemployment insurance and so we’ll tap into that existing line and just try to make sure that people are made whole.”

Schatz said that they are currently discussing provisions for the bill and they still need to pass it but he is hopeful because both the democrats and republicans are in support of it.

“The most important thing is that people are made safe. But certainly the economic effects are quite terrible for lots of families, and we want to make sure that while we are keeping everybody safe that nobody falls behind on their mortgage or their rent or utilities and are able to put food on the table.”

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