The federal funding coming into the state of Hawaii to help during the pandemic is 1.25 billion dollars.
Monday afternoon Governor David Ige outlined his plans for the money. About 860 million dollars will go toward the state’s response, prevention, and recovery activities. From that, Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii Island will receive a combined total of $175 million.
Oahu is getting about $380 million dollars, and now a big push is beiing made to take a $100 million of that and put it toward small businesses.
Honolulu City Councilmember Ann Kobayashi is helping lead the Occupancy Relief Program, which is aimed at helping small businesses pay rent to stay afloat in the economy.
“Is there any way we can use some of the federal money to help the small businesses that would qualify? Because we don’t want to lose any of the small businesses are the backbone of our economy,” Kobayashi said.
Some of the hardest hit are local restaurants and bars, which already operate on small margins.
“Honestly I think we’re kind of grasping at straws. We need a lot. I think this is the tip of the iceberg so at least it would be something,” Pint and Jigger owner Dave Neewman said.
When asked if this is something he would support on a state level, Governor David Ige was more concerned with keeping unemployment insurance run on state funds to help small businesses.
“When I look at all of the community needs here in Hawaii, the number one concern I think will help us address especially help for businesses is refilling the unemployment insurance trust fund. As you know we are depleting that fund and if the full cost of the program needs to be borne by businesses, every single business in the islands would see an increase in their uninsurance employment cost. So we’re looking at CARES Act funds to really offset the unemployment insurance costs for all businesses across the state,” Ige said.
In the push to make Hawaii’s economy less reliant on tourism, many believe small businesses will be key.
“It’s actually the small mom and pop shops, the restaurants, the bars, the small guys. We can’t overlook them when we come up with legislation and build we have to focus on them because they’re the ones who are hardest hit,” Chaminade University assistant accounting professor and small business expert Aaron Williamson said.
Kobayashi is one of those looking to ease the burden tourism holds on Hawaii’s economy.
“As we know we should be diversifying and helping these small businesses to survive and they start new industry so let’s all work together that’s the main thing,” Kobayashi said.
She added that the Honolulu City Council will discuss the Occupancy Relief Program in a budget meeting Tuesday as well as a special council committee on Wednesday.