Monday, Dec. 11, 2023 |
Share this story
It’s in the bank.
Hawaii County on Friday received half of its promised $80 million in emergency coronavirus response money, and the County Council has scheduled a special meeting July 1 to begin the work of spending it.
The money, part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, was held by the state for disbursement to the neighbor island counties based on population. The counties will have to submit monthly reports to the state on how they spend it. The City and County of Honolulu, because it has a population greater than 500,000, was given a direct payment by the federal government.
Under guidance issued by the federal government, the funding can be used to “meet payroll expenses for public safety, public health, health care, human services and similar employees whose services are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency,” in addition to direct COVID-19 response programs. It must be spent by Dec. 30.
Money can also be used for grants to small businesses to reimburse the costs of business interruption caused by required closures.
The county has so far spent or encumbered $3.9 million of the money, Finance Director Deanna Sako said. That money was used for disinfection teams who’ve been safeguarding county facilities, as well as personal protective equipment, physical barriers to prepare areas for reopening and overtime for county workers.
A plan Mayor Harry Kim submitted to the state May 15 listed broad spending categories.
“We’re trying to keep some of it a little flexible,” Sako said. “We’re setting a little bit of money aside.”
Sako said the public will have ample opportunity to see how the money is spent, through monthly reports to the state as well as County Council actions. The county plans to post its monthly reports on its website, she said.
Getting money directly to small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent shutdowns is a priority, said Diane Ley, director of the Department of Research and Development. Her office is putting together a request for proposals for a financial institution or other management organization to administer $5 million in micro-grants up to $10,000 to small businesses and nonprofits.
The RFP should be ready to go out in about 10 days, giving organizations a week or 10 days to respond. Once a county team evaluates and ranks the responses and a contract is struck, that entity in turn will solicit applications for the grants, she said.
Businesses and nonprofits who lost business income because they were required to shut down as a nonessential business, or they lost revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic and government proclamations, would be eligible to apply. For example, a gas station might have been allowed to stay open, but if it can show it lost income because of a dropoff in customers, it could still be eligible, she said.
“We know people are hurting and we know a direct cash infusion that will get to our businesses and our families would help … the sooner the better,” she said.
Here’s how Kim proposed the money be spent:
• $28 million for childcare grants, household grants, technology improvements for rural areas to help support school closures and teleworking, student and senior technology tools and homeless prevention.
• $22.3 million for grants and support for small businesses, agriculture, energy, restarts, startups, nonprofits and the business community.
• $10.1 million for PPE, renovation needs for social distancing, computer and teleworking needs.
• $9.6 million for shelter needs for quarantine, homeless, contact tracing and services location, and other housing needs.
• $6.6 million for personnel costs relating to the COVID-19 pandemic response.
• $3.4 million for contact tracing program and implementation, compliance with reopening protocols, prevention and education, enforcement and community sanitation and disinfection.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *