HONOLULU (KHON2) — The City is urging small businesses to get “Back on the Wave” of economic recovery with a new campaign aimed at offering guidelines for operating safely amid the coronavirus pandemic..

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Mayor Caldwell announced the newest business health guidance in a news conference on Wednesday. The Mayor said the initiative provides an actionable safety checklist that local businesses can adopt into their routine as Oahu starts to reopen.

“It’s been a painful year for small businesses but despite these challenges, they are doing so much to protect the health and safety of their staff, customers, and our community,” said Caldwell. “Back on the Wave shines a spotlight on their good work and will boost the confidence of the community when they shop, visit a restaurant, and do the everyday activities that will power our recovery.”

This campaign is also meant to encourage customers to return to these establishments and help businesses recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

The city has distributed $100 million to small businesses through its recovery relief program, and ‘Back to the Wave’ is a voluntary program that comes at no cost to the businesses.

The state also tried to revitalize the local economy with the Hawaii Restaurant Card, a $500 preloaded was sent to people receiving unemployment benefits. The cards boosted sales at restaurants but it did not cover some of the biggest struggles business owners face, overhead costs and back rent.

Ryan Tanaka the president of the consulting firm, Island Business Management Hawaii, said their latest commercial rent survey found four in 10 business did not pay their rent in full.

“We’ve been looking around the state and we see that many businesses and landlords are struggling, they’re struggling to work out deals,” Tanaka said. “And we’re seeing that commercial rent relief will cast the widest net possible to protect local businesses and to save local jobs.”

Honolulu Councilmember Tommy Waters introduced Resolution 20-208, it proposes for business owners to apply for a grant based on how much they pay in annual real property tax. The grant would be paid out directly to the landlord.

Tanaka said a grant amount based on annual real property tax can help businesses pay two to three months of rent.

“Today’s initiative, right, printing the directory, these programs are helping, but it’s not enough,” Tanaka said. “We need additional commercial rent relief that’s going to assist the landlords and tenants to survive the pandemic together and to enter realistic terms.” 

Mayor Caldwell said he is focusing on finding ways to allocate more CARES Act money to add to the city’s small business recovery fund before his tenure ends in the new year.

Local businesses that choose to participate in ‘Back to the Wave’ will receive a safety checklist with recommended changes to improve health measures at their establishment. Upon completion of the checklist, the City says the business will receive PPE and be added to a searchable directory for consumers. Over 700 local businesses across the island have reportedly already signed up.

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