Finance Committee Passes Bill to Distribute CARES Act Funds
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – The House Finance Committee today passed SB 75 SD2 HD1 to allocate $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act funds to support our counties in providing benefits for their residents and to fund our State government's health response during this global coronavirus pandemic and economic meltdown.
SB 75 earmarks specific portions of the CARES Act funds to be distributed among the four counties to provide for their residents' immediate needs such as food and rent support, and to give State departments specific funding for their virus containment response needs such as airport screening, contact tracing, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for hospitals.
Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke said the committee members along with the Senate Ways & Means Committee have together taken on the responsibility of directing these monies be used to support families and to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Luke said the state is wrestling with an economic challenge of keeping the unemployment insurance program afloat which is expected be depleted before July and will need to pay out claims of $500 million a month, to cover a $1.2 billion shortfall in the State budget.
The Legislature is currently working on adjusting the state budget to deal with the economic situation.
"We have to make sure the unemployment fund is solvent," Representative Luke said. "Unemployment benefits provide people the ability to pay for food, rent, and basic needs."
Luke said the state is looking to the counties to use the CARE Act funds before they expire at the end of the year to provide families with basic living support programs while the state deals with the larger financial issues.
After listening to financial requests for the funds from State Departments during both House and Senate committee hearings this week, most of the requests were either reduced or revised.
SB 75 will provide the counties with CARES Act funds totaling:
Honolulu City & County, $387,176,021
Hawaii County, $80,009,671
Maui County, $66,598,757
Kauai County, $28,715,021
Other funding in the bill includes:
$40 million for the Department of Defense for response activities
$36 million for the Department of Transportation for thermal screening at airports statewide
$1.3 million for the Department of Labor Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
$8.145 million for the Department of Labor for information technology, systems and staffing
$2 million for the Department of Human Services for EBT (food stamps) and SNAP technology services
$14 million for the Department of Health for outbreak and control, contact tracing, and PPE
The committee also passed SB 3139 SD1 HD1 to transfer the remaining $635 million of the CARES Act money into the State's Emergency Budget Reserve or "rainy day" fund to hold until decision can be made in June how to best use the funds.
All $1.25 billion of CARES Act funds provided to Hawaiʻi must be spent by December 31, 2020.