Hawai'i House Democrats
House Select Committee Previews Health, Economic Dashboard
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – The House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness today previewed a “dashboard” with estimated timelines for the public and businesses to easily understand where the state stands in its public health risk and economic reopening schedule.
Hawaiʻi Medical Service Association President & CEO Dr. Mark Mugiishi created a sample dashboard that can be posted on all government, health and business websites to make the information as accessible as possible.
Mugiishi shared a powerpoint with three charts; one showing color-coded health-based community response levels, the second with an easy to read dashboard of the daily status of the virus numbers, and the third offering an estimated timeline for when impact levels may change.
Committee members asked that the dashboard be widely distributed, easy to find, and adjusted by county rather than one statewide report.
Alan Oshima, the Governor’s Recovery and Resiliency Navigator, said there is a lot of information out in the public and it may be time to survey what people want to know and what they do and don’t understand about safely recovering from the pandemic.
Pankaj Bhanot, Director of the State Department of Human Services, detailed for the committee what the state is doing to support families with child care needs, provide support through social safety net programs, and protect children and elderly adults in vulnerable situations.
Bhanot told the committee that the department is releasing child care guidelines today with the number of facilities still open, the number seeking federal or other financial support to stay open or reopen, and what families are doing now for child care if they cannot afford or find facilities.
Federal and state subsidies are being used to help child care facilities keep employees on the payroll and their doors open, but with a limited number of students, he said.
Bhanot said more than 140 facilities remain open across the state but can only enroll children on a ratio of up to 9 students to 1 teacher, according to CDC rules. Bhanot said that ratio is not nearly enough to provide child care for all families as they return to work but health and safety measures are the primary concerns during this pandemic. He said that businesses themselves will need to be part of the solution to figure out how to help provide more child care space for their employees.
The director said the number or people applying for safety net support such as EBT cards and SNAP benefits has risen dramatically since the Governor’s stay at home orders went into effect, but the waiting time for individual applications to be processed is only two days.
With social workers forced to limit personal contact due to social distancing rules, the ability to investigate situations of possible abuse of children or elderly has become a problem. He said adequate staffing is critical and he asked House Speaker Scott Saiki to provide hazard pay for investigative workers.
Representative Bob McDermott presented a plan to safely reopen tourism in Hawaiʻi by having people tested for the coronavirus before they board aircraft coming to the state. McDermott said with the small numbers we have coming here now, testing is not as critical as it will be when we are back to hundreds and thousands of people arriving every day. We need to prepare for that eventuality now, he said.
Committee members said people cannot be forced to take tests, but incentives such as shortened quarantine times for those testing negative might be an inducement. Others questioned how we would handle international travelers and those just stopping here in transit.
Speaker Saiki reminded the group that the Legislature has just allocated $36 million in CARE Act funds for the Department of Transportation to install thermal screening at airports statewide which is expected to be installed quickly. He said the tourism subcommittee will look into these issues.
The committee will meet again on Monday, June 1.
For more information about the committee and to see related documents go to https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/specialcommittee.aspx?comm=cov&year=2020.