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Wednesday, May 20, 2020
May 20, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:24 PM :: 1225 Views

COVID: City, UH, Labs Team up to Test 100,000 on Oahu

COVID Count: One New Case out of 641 Tests

Peter K. Kubota Sworn In as New Circuit Court Judge of the Third Circuit 

Roll back government to revive Hawaii’s economy

UH, DOH working on plan to test out-of-state students for COVID-19

Travel-Related Unemployment Hits 51% Just Ahead of Memorial Day

Restructuring of Maunakea management will provide greater accountability and transparency

Despite urgent social needs, legislators decide to bank state and federal funds

SA: … Lawmakers are poised to stash more than $1.6 billion in state and federal funding in the state’s “rainy day” budget reserve fund at a time when Hawaii residents are hurting from the highest unemployment rate in generations, prompting one state senator to tell her colleagues Tuesday she is ashamed of the Legislature for failing to help more people in need.

In an emotional Senate floor speech, Sen. Laura Thielen observed that New Hampshire, Vermont, Alaska, Montana and other states are using federal funds from the CARES Act to make grants to the needy or to nonprofits that serve the needy, while lawmakers here are depositing most of the state’s share of CARES money in the rainy day fund.

Nearly 250,000 Hawaii residents have filed for unemployment in less than two months, yet Hawaii has been “among the worst if not the worst state in the nation at getting people their entitled unemployment benefits,” she said. Most of the people who lost their jobs are low-wage service workers, Thielen said…..

“This is the perfect storm. It’s the highest cost-of-living state. It’s workers with the lowest wages and the least amount of savings, and it’s the state that’s among the slowest to deliver unemployment payments to them,” said Thielen (D, Hawaii Kai-Waimanalo-Kailua).

In a voice choked with emotion, Thielen told her colleagues that “I am ashamed that we did nothing with the money that we had.” The CARES Act funding must be used to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and must be spent by the end of the year….

Leading lawmakers have said they reconvened at the Capitol last week to develop a new package of state budget fixes that will make it unnecessary for Gov. David Ige to impose public-worker pay cuts and furloughs next year….

(Translation: Legislators hope to divert these emergency funds to the State payroll.  This is currently illegal, but if Democrats sweep the federal elections in Nov, they may change the CARES rules to allow funds to pay gov’t employees salaries.  If they divert the funds from UComp, businesses will have to pay higher UComp taxes tp make up the shortfall in the UComp fund.)

Representatives of Hawaii social service providers who spoke on condition that they not be identified said they were mystified by the approach lawmakers have taken.

“It’s a huge amount of money. We have thousands of families suffering now; we have literal bread lines; and we are a bit baffled about why you would not be pushing out a ton more money immediately into direct support for rent subsidies, for food, for small business relief — all of those things,” said one nonprofit provider….

House Republican Minority Leader Gene Ward said that putting the CARES money in the rainy day fund “gives us control over it. We are the budgeting, we are the policymakers, and lot of the stuff that’s going on we don’t agree with, and therefore putting it in the rainy day fund, we are the ones who tap it in and tap it out, and that’s really why that’s a good thing.”

“Everybody’s on kind of a different sheet of music, and this puts the Legislature … front and center on the budgeting and the allocation of where the funds go,” said Ward (R, Kalama Valley- Queen’s Gate-Hawaii Kai). “The rainy day fund is a political move, at the same time a way of knowing that there’s going to be deliberation before it goes out. It’s not going to be a one-man, one-woman show, put the money here, put the money there. It’s going to be we, as a body.”

“We may do all that nonprofit and all that other stuff, but not right now,” he said.

Ward also said he approves of cuts that were imposed on the state Judiciary budget last week. “That was a shot across the bow; we took away a few million dollars because of the empty positions. We’re saying, ‘Hey, you guys, you want to let these prisoners out? We’re the ones who control your budget, watch it. We just cut you, we can cut you more.’”…

CB: Sen. Laura Thielen: The Hawaii Legislature Failed To Do Its Job

read … Despite urgent social needs, legislators decide to bank state and federal funds

Nearly 70,000 jobless still waiting for unemployment checks; state asks for patience

KITV: … Tuesday, the latest state figures show 68,177 people are still waiting for their money. And the state has no better answer than, keep waiting…..Murakami says the biggest challenge remains old technology. "The back end application was built in 1986. It's difficult," he admits. …

KITV: As unemployment numbers grow, so does the number of applications to Med-QUEST, Hawaii's version of Medicaid

read … Nearly 70,000 jobless still waiting for unemployment checks; state asks for patience

Senators Put Off Vote For Land Board Nominee due to his Support for Wind Farms

CB: … Opposition testimony came from the Sierra Club of Hawaii and 27 individuals, most of whom submitted similar testimony objecting to Yuen’s role in approving the Na Pua Makani wind farm.

Asked by Riviere at a hearing Wednesday what he’d say to those in Kahuku, Yuen said they should look at the wind farms as a point of pride.

“Something that says, this is a community that is contributing to a necessary change in the world,” he told the senators. …

read … Senators Put Off Vote For Land Board Nominee

Lifting 14-day quarantine will be key factor in Hawaiian Airlines’ recovery, says CEO

PBN: … Establishing a timeline for lifting the 14-day quarantine for travelers to and within the Islands will be one key factor in future metrics for Hawaiian Airlines as the carrier faces what President and CEO Peter Ingram called an “incredible destruction in revenue” as a result of the coronavirus.

Ingram said during a video call as part of the virtual Wolfe Research Global Transportation & Industrials Conference on Tuesday that the quarantine is the “biggest determinant” for how the airline will recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. The mandatory quarantine has been in place since late March. On Monday, in his eighth supplemental emergency proclamation, Gov. David Ige extended the quarantine rules through June 30.

“Unlike some of the other carriers that can give you sort of a clean picture of where demand is and where it isn’t, we really don’t even know right now where demand is because the quarantine removes whatever demand there might be,” he said during the call….

SA Editorial: Plan needed for reviving tourism

read … Lifting 14-day quarantine will be key factor in Hawaiian Airlines’ recovery, says CEO

Lawmakers discover more loopholes to quarantine order

KHON: … A member from a group called the Hawaii Quarantine Kapu Breakers told the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 that there are all types of groups online that share ways of getting around the law. They use illegal vacation rentals, rent cars through an illegal agency, or use ridesharing companies to get around.

“There’s groups where they figure out how they can get to Hawaii and it’s tips, it’s underground, it’s all kinds of interesting things that they share. They have groups,” said Angela Keen of Hawaii Quarantine Kapu Breakers.

The state attorney general says the state can make illegal vacation rental owners liable by making them sign forms, similar to the forms signed by passengers when they arrive….

HTH: AG talks quarantine enforcement

SA: Visitor counts rise to highest level since Hawaii quarantine began

read … Lawmakers discover more loopholes to quarantine order

Cluster outbreak at hospital now deemed ‘closed’

MN: … Infections there account for nearly half of Maui County’s total cases … The last onset of illness was April 21, meaning that “two incubation periods of 14 days have passed since the last reported case,” DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo explained in an email Tuesday evening.

As of April 20, there were 56 people — 36 staff and 20 patients — under investigation as potentially associated with the cluster, Okubo said.

The earliest cases began in mid-March and were announced as a cluster April 8.

The state has said the cluster may have begun with an employee who came to work while ill with the virus.

MN: Flower drop to thank health care ‘Heroes’

read … Cluster outbreak at hospital now deemed ‘closed’

Tourism Shutdown Destroying Hawaiian-Owned Entertainment and Tour Businesses

SA: … In normal times, Roland Chang and his three sons start their day at dawn, picking up tourists in Waikiki and driving them to the ocean for a boat ride to see dolphins and turtles swimming in clear blue waters. Four nights a week, the family’s band performs Hawaiian music and popular songs at a hotel.

Their friends call them workaholics. To them, it’s a routine. Or was until the coronavirus pandemic landed in Hawaii.

Like many businesses in tourism-dependent Hawaii, the Changs’ company has had no income for two months. And they don’t know if it will survive to see a post-COVID-19 world. But they agree with the restrictions imposed in the name of public health. And the family, who is Native Hawaiian, believes there will be rebirth afterward. Roland Chang’s sister NJ compared the wreckage to the way the fire goddess lays waste when a volcano erupts and lava flows across the land….

COC Analysis: One in Four Hawaii Businesses to Close Without Additional Financial Assistance

read… Coronavirus pandemic knocks out large sections of Hawaii’s economy

Soft on Crime Crowd Hoping for More Mass Releases of Criminals

CB: Prison Commission Demands Answers On COVID-19 At Arizona Prison

CB: Will Hawaii’s 2nd Wave Of Infections Start In Our Prisons?

New homeless outreach effort zeroes in on Keeping Bums Happy on Waianae Coast

HNN: … A woman named Dorinda said she’s long been on the waiting list for public housing. “Five years, five years waiting for housing,” she said (but still refusing shelter, of course)….

The team walked from encampment to encampment handing out essentials.

“We were able to pack some toiletries, blankets, water, chili rice from Zippy’s,” said Salvation Army Director of Family Services Anna Stone…. (Keep em nice n comfy on the streets of the West Side)….

“Some of the issues are diabetes and hypertension. Obviously they can’t hold their medications that need to be refrigerated so a lot of them just don’t do it.”

The team met up with Christopher Thompson not far from the water’s edge. He’s been living in a tent on the beach close to two years…..

read … New homeless outreach effort zeroes in on Waianae Coast

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