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Friday, May 08, 2020
May 8, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:24 PM :: 3334 Views

Hawaii reports no new COVID-19 cases for the first time in 8 weeks

Hawaii Womens' Commission 'Could be Easily Dismissed' ... but

New Hawaii Unemployment Claims Still Running 1338% Above Last Year

Hawaii Grade 'F' for Health Care Price Transparency Laws

Tourism Industry Collapse ‘A Horror Show That is Just Beginning’

SA: … Occupancy at Hawaii hotels plummeted to about 10% statewide for several weeks in April as COVID-19 fears and lockdowns ravaged the state’s tourist- driven economy.

That statistic provided by the Hawaii Tourism Authority on its COVID-19 alerts page is a sneak peak to a horror show that is yet unfolding.

Hawaii hotels statewide were at nearly 85% occupancy in February and nearly 45% occupancy in March. The decline in that industry and others has been accelerating since late January when the United States confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus. Hawaii confirmed its first COVID-19 case March 6, and shortly after began implementing strict stay-in-place and social distancing policies. On March 26 it became the first state to require incoming tourists to complete a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine….

hotel revenue per available room was at $263.73 for February and by the week ended April 25 had fallen 95% to $13.25. Revenue per available room, considered by many in the hotel industry as the best measure of performance, is the amount that a hotelier gets for each room regardless of its occupancy status.

“This is catastrophic for our economy,” said Erik Kloninger of Kloninger & Sims Consulting, who spoke Thursday during a Hawaii Economic Association briefing on the impact of COVID-19 on Hawaii’s economy. “Even after 9/11 when the planes stopped flying, people were stuck here, so the hotels still had guests.”…

Kloninger said the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks caused a 27% drop in monthly arrivals and that it took Hawaii 29 months to return to the pre-event level. The 1990 to 1991 Gulf War caused a 26% monthly decrease in arrivals that took 11 months to undo. The 2008 financial crisis caused a 19% decrease in monthly arrivals that didn’t come back for another 41 months.

How long will it take for tourism to come back this time?

“Maybe never, if that’s what we want. Maybe never despite our best efforts. Maybe three to four years if all the stars align,” Kloninger said. “This is a public health crisis, and that’s the first thing that will need to be addressed. The rest of it will happen according to the time frame that we can accommodate and to the extent that demand is there.”

HNN: When it comes to restarting tourism, everyone agrees on this: It won’t be easy 

CB: Is Hawaii Ready To Reopen The Economy? Some Experts Say Not Yet

read …  Hawaii’s tourism recovery could take years, experts say

New Quarantine Form Designed to Set Tourists up for Prosecution

SA: … Arriving airline passengers in the age of the new coronavirus will face a “Donna Kim” form along with a new TSA-type inspection system that originally cost $35 million just at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport — a price tag that lawmakers rejected as too high.

Hawaii has “already one of the stricter or more enforced quarantine orders in the country,” Sean Williams, vice president of the airline trade organization group — Airlines for America — told members of the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 committee Thursday. “Hawaii probably has the most enforced and the strictest.”

Two major changes are in the plans for arriving passengers: a new level of scrutiny and a new form designed to give officials information to follow up on — and potentially prosecute — failed promises to adhere to statewide quarantine rules, Ford Fuchigami, director of the state Department of Transportation, told the committee.

A new “travel declaration form” was immediately nicknamed the “Donna Kim form” by some members of the special committee because of her persistence on changes. It is being drafted to include new language for all incoming passengers, including interisland essential workers and airline crew members, Fuchigami said.

“This will replace the AG (state Department of Agriculture) declaration form,” he said.

The new form is intended to include every passenger’s information such as the address of their lodgings and confirmation information to allow tourism workers to follow up. The current agriculture form requires information only for the entire group in a traveling party, not by individual.

The new form eliminates the new and awkward category of “intended” resident that had confused many in the early days of Hawaii’s efforts to track arrivals.

The new categories for arriving airline passengers are expected to be those who are on vacation, a returning resident, visiting family or friends, or on business, Fuchigami said.….

VIDEO: Airline Rep Questioned On Informing Passengers About Quarantine

KHON: Lawmakers face more hurdles trying to crack down on quarantine

read … New requirements ahead for passengers arriving in Hawaii

The First Signs of Travel’s Return?

NYT: … in the last week or so, as the idea of opening up to travelers has gained traction, some countries are taking concrete steps. Yesterday, Australia announced a three-stage plan to reopen the economy, which includes a focus on tourism. And some countries are forming regional alliances designed to minimize the risk of the virus, including an Australia-New Zealand travel “bubble,” and, in Europe, a travel “corridor” shared by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania….

read … The First Signs of Travel’s Return?

Lawyer connected to Katherine Kealoha arrested for Allegedly Stealing Car, Selling Meth

HNN: … Christopher Woo, 47, was arrested early Thursday morning for allegedly driving a stolen car.

Police pulled Woo over at the intersection of Punchbowl Street and Vineyard Boulevard just after midnight.

Woo was arrested for unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, an outstanding warrant, and promoting a dangerous drug. Sources say officers recovered methamphetamine during a search of the car — a rental reported stolen from Honolulu’s airport Wednesday.

There is no bond amount and he remains at Honolulu police cellblock.

Woo was already out on bond for allegedly trying to pass a stolen check at a credit union at Fort Street Mall last November. Last April, he claimed he was kidnapped by his ex-girlfriend.

In September of 2018, Woo’s registered firearm ended up being used in an officer-involved shooting. The loaded Glock was in the hands of Freddie Joe Whitmore who was shot after pointing the gun at Honolulu Police Officers at Century Center while police were executing a narcotics warrant ….

In June 2018, Woo was arrested by the FBI after failing to appear before the grand jury and failing to produce evidence that the FBI asked for in connection to the case against the Kealohas.

The evidence federal authorities asked for — a laptop and cell phone — were later reported stolen by Woo.

Woo was hired by Kealoha to represent her boyfriend, Jesse Ebersole ….

Feb 22, 2020:  Katherine Kealoha’s Boyfriend’s Attorney’s Cell Phone found at Massage Parlor?

read … Honolulu attorney connected to Katherine Kealoha is arrested again

Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Kealohas Stuck In Limbo

CB: … “The longer this drags on the harder this is on my client and his family,” Seitz said. “There’s no reason why we can’t begin to move forward.”

Seitz sent a letter last week to U.S. Magistrate Judge Wes Porter asking him to lift the order staying Puana’s case.

Seitz says he wants to file a new complaint against the Kealohas and their co-defendants, which currently include the City and County of Honolulu and other current and former police officers alleged to have been involved in the frame job and other attempts to deprive Puana of his rights.

So far, Seitz said, he has yet to receive a response to his letter….

read … Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Kealohas Stuck In Limbo

It’s time to reevaluate Hawaii inmate releases

Cataluna: … now that the first wave has been set free, the next set must be getting a little bit deeper down the list.

The state attorney general and three of the four county prosecutors want the inmate releases to stop or at least pause for a bit, which seems wise since much has happened in the weeks since the releases started, including the containment of the virus in the community, the lack of the virus in any of the correctional facilities and, sad to say, the seven inmates who were released only to have re-offended almost immediately ….

read … It’s time to reevaluate Hawaii inmate releases

Punahou: Several Staff Placed on Leave over Child Molestation Suit

SA: … Punahou School has named a new interim head varsity football coach and has placed longtime coach Charles “Kale” Ane III on paid leave in the wake of allegations that he and other school officials did nothing to prevent sexual abuse of student athletes.

Leonard Lau, a longtime assistant football coach at the school, is the new interim head coach for the Buffanblu, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser learned this morning.

Ane, Punahou’s 22-year head coach and one of the school’s athletic directors since the early 2000s, is among several school officials put on paid leave after several recent lawsuits alleged sexual abuse of students, including female basketball players, by a Punahou assistant basketball coach during the 2000s….

read … Punahou School chooses new interim head football coach after placing Kale Ane on paid leave

CARES?  Hawaii County Grabs $250K to ‘Administer’ $1.25M

HTH: … Four Big Island charities were approved for a portion of a $1.5 million federal grant. But the red tape will eat up $250,000 of it.

The County Council on Wednesday unanimously and without comment approved the grants of the federal money meant to bolster the county’s response to the coronavirus pandemic….

Under the county’s plan, The Food Basket, Hawaii Island’s food bank, will receive $643,000; HOPE Services will receive $300,000; the Boys &Girls Club of the Big Island will receive $200,000; and the Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council will receive $150,000….

(BTW they each have their own ‘administration’ expenses as well, LOL!)

The county Office of Housing and Community Development will use the $250,000 to administer the grant. It might sound like a lot. But there were no negative comments during the public comment period, Hosaka said.

An April 27 West Hawaii Today story that mentioned the grants did receive some negative feedback online, with several readers asking why it cost so much to administer money to just four nonprofits.

“$250K could help a heck of a lot of people. … Can’t you just administer the grant as part of YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION???” wrote Sara Steiner-Jackson. “Kinda like everyday running of the government … got your little fingers in every pie, even the rescue pie.”

The agency will use the money for two contract hires — a CDBG contract specialist and an accountant — to work for six months administering and overseeing the grants, said Hosaka….  ($250K for one full time equivalent?)

read … Red tape: Administering CARES money costs a lot

Unemployment Update: 141,077 Claims Processed, Additional 84,500 Under Review

MN: … In total, the state has processed 141,077 claims as of yesterday (May 6, 2020)–that is just shy of 63% of the total number of claims received. Of the claims that have been processed to date, 100,602 claims were paid out–that represents just under 72%.  The residual amount of 40,000 are claims that were denied. The state currently has in process 84,510 claims, which is the priority at this time.

That pushes the total number of claims filed to date to more than 225,500.

Since the start of COVID-19 response in Hawaiʻi, the state has paid out over $320 million in benefits….

read … Unemployment Update: 141,077 Claims Processed, Additional 84,500 Under Review

Lawmaker proposes using Hawaii’s federal stimulus aid to rush payments to laid off workers

HNN: … State Sen. Laura Thielen is pitching the idea of an interest-free, advance loan from the federal CARES Act to those waiting for unemployment benefits.

More than 85,000 jobless claims are still being processed out of the 225,000 filed since March 1.

“We could basically front-end the $600 weekly payment and have people sign an agreement that once their claim is approved, and most of them will be, that they would allow us to reimburse the state,” Thielen said.

She’s already pitched the idea to the state Senate and House leadership.

Thielen volunteered for about a week at the state temporary unemployment office set up inside a Hawaii Convention Center ballroom. That gave her a firsthand look at how challenging processing claims can be, especially for claims that need high level adjustments.

“People that are living paycheck-to-paycheck and now they’re gone one, two months, and they’re looking at having to go through another month or two with zero income.”

The state received $860 million from the federal government…

read … Lawmaker proposes using Hawaii’s federal stimulus aid to rush payments to laid off workers

Schools Chief: Use Federal Bailout Money To Avoid Teacher Pay Cuts (even though they are doing nothing)

CB: … Superintendent Christina Kishimoto (caught flatfooted in the midst of several schemes to give millions in free money to HSTA members this session) outlined some plans for (her designs on) federal stimulus money, including keeping salaries at current levels….

read … Full Pay to do Nothing

DOE pilot program to deliver free meals to families at home

WHT: … Department of Education “Emergency Meals-to-You” pilot program late Thursday. The program is set up to help rural families in South Kona overcome transportation challenges associated with the department’s current pick-up sites for grab-and-go meals.

Starting on Monday, students who qualify for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Free and Reduced Price School Meal Program at Konawaena, Honaunau, and Hookena Elementary Schools will automatically begin receiving two weeks’ worth of shelf-stable breakfast and lunch meals for students.

“Due to the long commute associated with my districts’ disproportionately large distances between schools, DOE’s grab-and-go meal pick up program was insufficient in hitting the mark,” said Kanuha….  (Translation: Nobody came to get the food.)

The cost of the meals will be reimbursable by the USDA. The program will continue through June….

read … DOE pilot program to provide meals to families

Former Meadow Gold owner explains why money was deposited, then withdrawn from employee accounts

KHON:  … “On April 30th, that was the last day of operations for Meadow Gold under Dean Foods. On May 1st, the new company, which we were told was Logistic Capitol, took over Meadow Gold retaining the Meadow Gold name,” Kaululaau explained.

He said that buyer rehired roughly 89 workers out of 228 statewide. Leaving many still out of work.

Many of those employees were entitled to payments under the Warn Act — which requires businesses to give workers 60 days notice before closing, or provide payment. Meadow Gold under Dean Foods didn’t give enough notice so they were legally obligated to pay the workers who were not hired by the new company.

In a statement Dean Foods wrote:

“We received a list of individuals that were going to be offered employment by the acquiring entity of Meadow Gold Hawaii after the WARN payments had been submitted for payment. Individuals who are offered employment are not eligible to receive WARN payments and thus the money was withdrawn.” ….

read … Former Meadow Gold owner explains why money was deposited, then withdrawn from employee accounts

Hawaii’s Only Refinery Production Drops 18,000 Barrels Per Day

OG: … Deferral of Hawaii turnaround to at least the third quarter of 2020 to address state-mandated quarantine and social distancing restrictions…

Hawaii: The 3-1-2 Singapore Crack Spread was $8.11 per barrel in the first quarter of 2020, compared to $9.15 per barrel in the first quarter of 2019. The Hawaii refineries’ throughput in the first quarter of 2020 was a combined 95 thousand barrels per day (Mbpd), compared to 113 Mbpd for the same quarter in 2019. Production costs were $3.36 per throughput barrel in the first quarter of 2020, compared to $2.81 per throughput barrel in the same period in 2019….

Par Pacific owns and operates one of the largest energy networks in Hawaii with 148,000 bpd of combined refining capacity, a logistics system supplying the major islands of the state and 91 retail locations….

After completing the acquisition of certain refining units from Island Energy Services on December 19, 2018, we began shifting our Hawaii production profile to supply the local utilities with low sulfur fuel oil and significantly reduced our high sulfur fuel oil yield. In 2020, following the implementation of IMO 2020, we established the 3-1-2 Singapore Crack Spread, or three barrels of Brent crude oil converted into one barrel of gasoline and two barrels of distillates (diesel and jet fuel), as a new benchmark for our Hawaii operations. By removing the high sulfur fuel oil reference in the index, we believe the 3-1-2 Singapore Crack Spread is the most representative market indicator of our current operations in Hawaii….

read … Par Pacific Holdings Reports First Quarter 2020 Results

Molokai Solar-Battery Scheme: Sue MECO to Force $0.18/kwh Project

IM: …Princeton Energy Group proposed generating all Moloka`i electricity from renewable energy. The Ikehu Molokai proposal would rely on solar, water, and biofuels. (See: ililani media, January 20, 2014)

Facing fierce community resistance, Princeton Energy Group sold Ikehu Molokai to Chicago-based Half Moon Venture (HMV) in 2015. The project was re-named Moloka'i New Energy Partners (MNEP)….

Moloka‘i New Energy Partners proposed a 4.88-megawatt photovoltaic project, coupled with a 3 MW/15MWh battery energy storage system (BESS) with a maximum allowed export of 2.64 MW, in Kaunakakai, on the Island of Moloka`i….

The Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission approved the PPA on July 30, 2018.

Commissioner Jennifer Potter wrote a concurring opinion. "The levelized cost estimate of $0.18 per kWh is likely too low. (Wow.) The project size slid under the competitive bidding floor thus avoiding more cost-effective alternatives. MECO asserts that the project will offer unique services, but it is not clear that the Project will be providing grid services above and beyond the inherent capabilities of other comparable battery energy storage systems."

The Guaranteed Commercial Operations Date (GCOD) was 470 days following the Effective Date. The Effective Date for the PPA was the latter of a non-appealable Commission decision or any related Commission ruling such as overhead lines for the interconnection substation.

"The Guaranteed Commercial Operations Date is January 2020," according to the Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) Form 10-Q for the quarter ending March 31, 2019.

The date came and went.

If the GCOP is missed by 180 days, the PPA gives MECO the right to terminate the PPA.

Who is guilty? Who should pay?

MNEP filed a breach of contract lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Hawaii against MECO on March 25, 2020, case number: 1:2020cv00134….

One solution may be similar to Hu Honua. A recent federal lawsuit against the HECO Companies was filed by Hu Honua. That litigation ended in mediation, resulting in an Amended and Restated PPA, which was then approved by the Public Utilities Commission, appealed by Life of the Land, and remanded back to the Public Utilities Commission by the Hawai`i Supreme Court., and is currently a contested case proceeding….

Watch: Planet of the Humans: Michael Moore Debunks Hawaii's Clean Energy Initiative

read … Federal Lawsuit --- Molokai New Energy Partners LLC v. Maui Electric Company, Limited

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