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Sunday, May 24, 2020
May 24, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:24 PM :: 1304 Views

​Memorial Day: Thanks for your Service Is Not Enough

Money Laying Around?

Auditor Finds Another $483M

360 Candidates File for Election -- Deadline June 2

Hawaii Democratic Primary: RCV Wipes out all Candidates Except Biden, Sanders

COVID Count: One New Case out of 583 Tests

Counties Reopening 'Medium Risk' Businesses

BLNR Rejects Aquarium Fishing EIS

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted May 23, 2020

Business re-opening Limbo is on Fed’s radar as necessity for closures lessens

KHON: … The delay is catching the attention of the feds. Last month U.S. Attorney General William Barr asked districts nationwide to monitor state and local policies for infringement of constitutional protections. U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii Kenji Price told Always Investigating they’re on the lookout for individual as well as business infringements, saying: “The Department of Justice respects and recognizes the significant legal authority our state and local officials have to protect our communities during an emergency.  The rapid spread of COVID-19 presents such an emergency, and may justify certain restrictions imposed by state and local officials.  However, restrictions must last only as long as they are absolutely necessary, and state and local officials should tailor them as the situation progresses.  Importantly, decisions regarding what businesses are ‘non-essential’ should not be arbitrary.”

Price added: “The Department of Justice will monitor restrictions imposed by officials here in Hawaii and elsewhere, and may take action when they raise concerns under the U.S. Constitution or federal law.  However, it is important to note that our ability to intervene is not limitless, and in many cases we do not have authority to intervene on our own, but must file a statement of interest in litigation brought by another party.  Our assessment of whether and when to intervene in any given case will depend upon the facts and, of course, what we believe best serves the interests of justice.”

So what are the business rights at stake? Hawaii attorney Robert Thomas, from the firm Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert explains: “It’s turning the switch off on people who haven’t been shown to have done anything wrong, anything different than the rest of us who initially could either get sick or potentially could be carriers. There hasn’t been anything else to indicate that a particular business or categories of businesses be non-essential.”

Thomas said even under a state of emergency, governors and mayors have boundaries: “Remember your obligation to impact as few people as possible in the least way possible while still accomplishing the ultimate goal, which is to keep us healthy and avoid public health risks.”…

USDOJ: Department of Justice Files Statement of Interest Challenging the Legality of Illinois Governor's Sweeping COVID-19 Orders

read … Business re-opening Iimbo is on Fed’s radar as necessity for closures lessens

Hawaii tourism pushing July 1 Reopening Date

SA: … Hawaii has flattened the COVID-19 curve, but reopening tourism still isn’t even on the government’s official agenda.

That’s in sharp contrast to destinations around the world such as Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, China, Italy, Iceland, Greece, Spain and Mexico — even Las Vegas and Florida — that have announced tourism reopening dates or are seriously moving toward them by setting public benchmarks and adopting standards for phased reopening….

Without a future start date, Hawaii’s visitor industry is floundering. Tourism officials say reopening will take four to six weeks, so they need to know now if government is making plans for a mid-June or July restart. So far, they’ve heard nothing silence from the state.

Lawmakers say they are taking their cues from the state Department of Health and the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. Neither agency has clarified tourism’s reopening benchmarks.

Perhaps it’s a clue that state Economist Eugene Tian’s forecast, released Friday, assumes Hawaii tourism won’t start opening until September.

Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association, said waiting until September is going to make unemployment rise. By June or July, visitor-industry-related foreclosures and business shutdowns already will have started.

“If you think getting out of COVID-19 was difficult, you ain’t seen anything yet when it comes to getting back on our feet,” Hannemann said. “Without visitors, revenues for nearly every other business that reopens will be weak.”

He and other tourism leaders are pushing a preseason plan.

They want Gov. David Ige and the four local mayors to lift the interisland passenger quarantine to allow kamaaina travel to resume in May or June. Hoteliers that take a risk and reopen for kamaaina travel are seeking assurances that if the process is successful the state would agree to lift the out-of-state passenger quarantine on July 1.

read … Other destinations set reopenings, but Hawaii tourism remains in limbo

JABSOM Lab to Open End of June for coronavirus testing in Hawaii

SA: … New infections of the highly contagious virus, and the disease named COVID-19 that has triggered a global pandemic, are sure to arise as commercial activity increases.

But Hawaii’s health-care system has the capability to treat them, say state Department of Health officials, who also assure the public it is prepared to trace the contacts of a newly infected person well enough to contain community spread of the disease….

What should fill people with hope is that some substantial advances are being made toward a more robust, locally based system of testing larger swaths of the population for COVID-19….

More encouraging news came last week with the announcement that the city has struck a partnership to provide 50,000 diagnostic tests through the end of the year at Oahu’s scattered community health centers. Additionally, 49,000 antibody tests will be made available as part of a study to identify levels of COVID-19 locally.

The health centers will offer tests at points around the island, with diagnostic samples collected by Honolulu-based Clinical Labs and Diagnostic Labs and analyzed locally, enabling quick results turnaround, said Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Most encouraging of all: This initiative will deploy $4 million in federal CARES Act money to stand up a new testing laboratory based at the John. A. Burns School of Medicine, with additional support from the Rockefeller Foundation.

That lab establishment is being fast-tracked to open in about six weeks — which will be essential in supporting the opening of the University of Hawaii campuses. In addition, the DOH contract with UH to train health-care personnel for contact tracing — finding and closing down avenues of virus spread — is a critical component in the entire plan….

SA: How to prevent a surge in COVID-19 in Hawaii

read … Progress made on tracking, coronavirus testing in Hawaii

Saiki: When Legislature Reconvenes, We Will Abandon Plan to Convert CARES Money into HGEA Payroll and Instead Apply it to Unemployment Compensation

Borreca:  … On Thursday, the lawmakers again went into recess and are expected back June 15….

The big catch now is how to divvy up and spend the roughly $1.24 billion in emergency federal money coming to Hawaii.

The Legislature went back into recess partially to decide how to allot the money, although Saiki said he thinks much of it will go for unemployment insurance.

Also, $175 million will be sent to the neighbor island counties for direct assistance. Honolulu already has more than $350 million earmarked for assistance.

Early fears were that the federal money, now parked in the state’s rainy day fund, would not be spent. Saiki said that when the Legislature returns, the money will find a new home, although the bureaucratic trick will be to get the Ige administration and the Legislature to agree how to quickly spend it…..

Related: 26 States Will Protect Businesses from COVID-19-Related Unemployment Tax Hikes--Hawaii isn't one of them

read … Whatever politics are in play, politicians must get money to those hurting most in Hawaii

It’s raining only when government employees don’t get paid

Shapiro: … Much is made of Hawaii’s one-party political rule, but it’s starting to look like a rowdy fraternity party as brawling Democrats struggle to find common cause in their coronavirus response….

Their main efforts were to rework the deficit-ridden state budget to protect public workers from potential pay cuts and furloughs by Ige — even though he said he’d do so only as a last resort — and stash $635 billion of federal relief money and a like amount of state revenues in the “rainy day” fund to put it beyond Ige’s reach.

Also beyond the reach of suffering individuals and businesses sorely in need of relief as Hawaii’s unemployment nears 25% in a dead economy. Legislators pushed out little money to help them in the apparent belief that it’s raining only when government employees don’t get paid….

May 13, 2020: Legislators Grab CARES Funds Earmarked for Unemployment to Pay HGEA, UPW—Businesses will be taxed to fund illegal scheme

read … As lawmakers fight each other, COVID-19 scores a TKO

Contract delays sidelined investigators crucial to quarantine enforcement

HNN: … Investigators with the Attorney General’s office have played a major role in the arrests of out-of-state visitors who violate the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement.

But Hawaii News Now has learned that some of the AG’s investigators have been sidelined for more than a week due to bureaucratic delays. These investigators are employed under 89-day contracts, which Gov. David Ige’s administration did not immediately renew when they lapsed….

According the AG’s office, four investigators were out seven work of days while three others were out two days. All are back to work.

Besides the visitor quarantine investigators, some of the contract hires who maintain and the state’s sex offender registry were also sidelined.

“We had asked the administration about the investigators who were on 89-day contracts and the Chief of Staff said it was on her desk," Dela Cruz said….Governor Ige’s Chief of Staff Linda Chu Takayama did finally approve the contract renewals earlier this week….

KITV: Kauai County investigator weighs in on quarantines and testing of Hawaii visitors

read … Contract delays sidelined investigators crucial to quarantine enforcement

Welcome to Puerto Rico, Now Line Up for Your Virus Screening

BB: … Reyes has been pushing throughout the pandemic to make Puerto Rico as impregnable as possible. In April, at his urging, the commonwealth asked the Federal Aviation Administration to shut down flights from coronavirus hot spots, including New York, Florida and Chicago. The petition was denied, but the FAA did allow the commonwealth to route all incoming commercial traffic through San Juan’s principal airport to facilitate the health screening.

The number of confirmed cases in Puerto Rico surpassed the 3,000 mark Friday, with 126 deaths from Covid-19 since the pandemic began. The Health Department said an additional 117 people had tested positive for the virus, the third time this month that more than 100 cases were detected in 24 hours.

Since mid-March, the U.S. commonwealth has been requiring visitors to endure one of the strictest medical screenings of any state or territory. Doctors in protective suits take their temperatures, grill them about their travel history and, in some cases, hustle them off for Covid-19 tests. As the world wrestles with how to welcome back tourists without rolling out the red carpet for the coronavirus, Puerto Rico -- bankrupt and battered by hurricanes and earthquakes -- thinks its aggressive stance may be part of the solution. Of 77,000 passengers who have run the medical gantlet at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport near San Juan in the past two months, just over 200 have tested positive….

read … Welcome to Puerto Rico, Now Line Up for Your Virus Screening

As tourism stalls, military spending continues to boost Hawaii’s economy

SA: … the Army is proposing a $1 billion infusion over the next 10 years to upgrade infrastructure in Hawaii. Competition with China is driving continuing emphasis on Hawaii and the Pacific.

State chief economist Eugene Tian said tourism contributed $15.8 billion to Hawaii GDP, or 16.2%, based on estimates by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism for 2019. Federal spending contributed $10.4 billion to Hawaii GDP, or 10.6%.

The federal spending counted toward GDP includes payroll and contracts, Tian noted. Federal payments on retirement, Social Security and grants are not counted in GDP since they are considered “transfer payments.”

Visitor spending overtook defense spending in Hawaii in 1976, Tian said. Based on GDP, real estate is the No. 1 industry in Hawaii, tourism is No. 2, and the federal government is No. 3.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority noted visitor spending of $17.75 billion in 2019. Tian said adding airline and cruise line spending for supplies, that figure bumps up to $20.5 billion.

In a normal year, federal spending in Hawaii is over $20 billion a year, but that includes transfer payments such as retiree pay, and only about half the total counts toward GDP.

The Army said its direct spending in Hawaii is over $3.8 billion per year — including $2.6 billion for salaries of soldiers, civilian employees, reservists and retirees….

Sputnik: South Korea To Sent Fewer Destroyers To US-Led Drills Near Hawaii Due To COVID-19- Reports

Related: Hawaii Construction Industry Shows us an Alternate Reality Without Forced Shutdowns

read … As tourism stalls, military spending continues to boost Hawaii’s economy

Aloha Stadium Bids Due Tuesday—Christmas for Politicians

SA: … As the hand-delivered packets arrive Tuesday at the Department of Accounting and General Services offices on Punchbowl Street, the State will begin to get an idea of where its vision for the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District is headed.

That is when, after two postponements due to the impact of COVID-19, responses to the state’s March 27 request for qualifications are due and the first of two stages in the procurement process aimed at selecting a private sector partner for the project ramps up.

“May 26 will be like Christmas Day — an opportunity for us to see which developers have the financial muscle and technical expertise to re-create (98) acres in Halawa,” said state Sen. Glenn Wakai (D, Kalihi, Mapunapuna, Salt Lake), in whose district the current, rust-crusted facility sits….

read … Process of selecting a developer for the Aloha Stadium project moves forward

Homeless services burden Chinatown

SA: … We wish to thank the Star-Advertiser for its informative article detailing plans to use federal CARES Act funding to acquire property in Chinatown for yet another homeless facility in our small, nationally historic “cultural gem,” as the mayor likes to call it (“New IHS facility among virus-related city projects,” May 14).

For the past seven years of the Caldwell administration, several initiatives to provide homeless services have been launched in Chinatown. The city hygiene center opened in the newly established Safe Haven facility. The H4 (Hawaii Homeless Healthcare Hui) medical triage site opened. LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) started to work in the area. Housing First and Section 8 vouchers have been distributed to people with drug and alcohol addictions for accommodations in city housing in Chinatown.

Since approximately 70% of city-owned affordable housing complexes are in the Chinatown area, this means that a disproportionate number of people with serious addictions are being housed in Chinatown. The city refuses to disclose the actual number of vouchers distributed for this area….

Chinatown has become a nexus for homeless with serious addiction and mental health issues — people who at all hours roam naked, shout obscenities, defecate, drink and do drugs on the streets and in the parks. People whom the city and service providers label “resistant to services.”…

(The problem is that they are allowed to resist services.  The homeless must be FORCED into shelter.)

read …  Hawaii homeless services burden Chinatown

Hawaiians Move to California, Marry Indians, Get Casino

CB: …The story of the tribe — whose members have both Native American and Native Hawaiian ancestors — is a fairly well-documented, though often overlooked, part of California and Hawaiian history.

We traveled to California last summer to talk to the tribe about its Hawaiian heritage for Offshore, our serialized storytelling podcast. But a spokeswoman for the tribe canceled an interview with tribal elders and declined all requests for comment after we asked questions about lawsuits involving the tribe.

So how did the descendants of a group of Hawaiians end up owning a casino in California?

To get an answer, we dug through court records, social media posts, current and historic newspaper articles, and talked to several historians….

read … Tracing California’s ‘Lost Tribe’ Of Hawaiians

Unemployed?  Deadline to Apply for Elected Job is June 2 

SA: …Question: Is it too late to run for office? My whole situation with unemployment is getting to be too much — they still haven’t processed my claim and it’s been over two months. … Why does Laura Thielen seem to be the only one talking about this (808ne.ws/520sty)?

Answer: Kokua Line continues to hear from many workers like you, who lost their jobs when the state shut down to thwart the coronavirus and are still waiting for unemployment benefits. About 66,000 claims remained unresolved as of Thursday, according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations….

The candidate filing deadline is 4:30 p.m. June 2, according to the state Office of Elections. To get on the ballot for the primary election, candidates must complete an application for a nomination paper, then submit the nomination paper with a filing fee and the written support of enough valid voters to qualify for the race. Find all the requirements on the election office website, at 808ne.ws/candfile….

Related:  360 Candidates File for Election -- Deadline June 2

read … Deadline looms for jobless inspired to political action

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