House COVID-19 Committee Hears Funding Updates from Congressman Case, Gov. Ige
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – The House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness today discussed the possibility of more federal funds coming to Hawaiʻi, the imminent release of CARES Act funds, and reopening the state to tourism.
Governor David Ige told the committee that CARES Act funds allocated by the Legislature in SB 126 SD1 HD1 CD1 could be released within the next week. The bill is a comprehensive plan to spend $635 million in federal CARES Act funds to provide immediate relief for working families, address public health and pandemic needs, and rebuild and move the economy forward.
The bill was sent to the Governor on June 26 and Ige said his departments have been reviewing the measure. Ige wants to get it signed and the funds released as quickly as possible.
Ige also said he has been working with the county mayors on testing procedures for passenger arrivals after travel restriction are eased on September 1. Visitors and returning residents will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test to be allowed into the state without undergoing a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Ige said the issue has become more complicated due to the rapid increase of coronavirus infections on the mainland and the associated decrease in availability of testing supplies and a longer turnaround time for test results.
U.S. Representative Ed Case told the committee that the $3 trillion HEROS Act passed by the House in May is in active negotiations with the Senate and the Trump Administration. The bill would provide tax cuts and spending to address the negative health and financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including financial relief to state, local and tribal governments; extensions to enhanced unemployment benefits; debt collection relief; and direct cash payments to households.
Case said the Senate could pass the bill by the end of July and funds begin being distributed in August, but he doesn't know exactly what will be included in the bill and how much money would be allocated for Hawaiʻi.
Case said Hawaii has so far now received a total of $7.7 billion of federal funds for economic relief during the pandemic.
Hawaiʻi Medical Service Association President and CEO Dr. Mark Mugiishi said if the testing situation can be worked out, more tourists are expected to begin arriving after September 1. He said pre-testing is a good plan but will not be perfect, so it is likely that the number of infections will increase in Hawaiʻi. He said the reopening of public schools a few days later could complicates matters.
Mugiishi said currently we have enough testing and contact tracing and our hospitals can handle the expected increase in patients.
Nathaniel Kinney, Executive Director of the Hawaii Construction Alliance, said children and young people don't fully understand the important of wearing masks and maintaining social distancing to combat the spread of the virus.
Pamela Tumpap, President of the Maui Chamber of Commerce, said a new communications plan is needed to reach young people that are not following the rules. She said a strong campaign emphasizing social responsibility is needed.
Governor Ige agreed that young people get their information through social media rather than traditional news sources and we are not successfully reaching them.
Ige said if we don't manage the number of infections and it threatens our health care systems we could be forced to shut the state down again.
Carl Bonham, Executive Director of University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization (UHERO) provided the committee with a new economic report saying a staggering 30 percent of adults in Hawaiʻi, or about 250,000 people, have either already missed or expect in the next month to miss a rent or mortgage payment.
Bonham said a new small business survey is now being conducted and the report will be available at the next meeting.
The House Select Committee will meet again on Monday, July 27.
For more information about the committee and to see related documents go to https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/specialcommittee.aspx?comm=cov&year=2020.