Bolstered by nonbinding resolutions seeking financial bailouts for very small and women-owned businesses, the Hawaii County Council on Wednesday unanimously passed an $80 million relief package tapping into federal coronavirus funds.
The timeline is tight for applications, said Deputy Finance Director Steve Hunt. The county has to spend the money by Dec. 30.
The first requests for proposals will go out today, with contracts awarded the first week of August. Those will be for the bigger chunks of money for nonprofits to provide community relief for food, medical care, personal protective equipment and the like, and for financial “partners” to help administer smaller grants.
Smaller grants made from $22 million in business grants and $10 million in individual grants to prevent housing displacement will come later, once the financial partners, such as banks, credit unions and nonprofits, are chosen to administer them.
“We encourage multiple applicants,” Hunt said.
The state has given the county only half of the $80 million it is administering in behalf of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Because the funds were given to the state to distribute to the smaller municipalities, the state has made a number of requirements, including retaining the right to terminate the agreement at any time and delegating to the county functions such as lifeguards, paramedics and airport screeners previously held by the state.
The 19-page spending plan, which is subject to change as developments occur, can be found at http://records.hawaiicounty.gov/Weblink/0/doc/998601/Page1.aspx
In addition to Bill 176 appropriating the money, the council passed Resolutions 665, 666 and 680, declaring council members’ priorities in spending.
Resolution 665 specifies priorities in small businesses, agriculture, tourism and at-risk communities, while Resolution 666 asks for one-time grants up to $5,000 for businesses that suffered because of COVID-19 related business slowdowns and additional grants of up to $4,000 for those mandated to close by proclamation.
“We need to look at what happens when we don’t support the quiet backbone of our community,” said Puna Councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder. “Some businesses in our community that have been here forever … 30, 40, 50 years … are struggling right now. We need to be here to support them.”
Resolution 680, sponsored by Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz and Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter, recognizes the unique impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on women and encourages the county administration to enlist the help of the Hawaii County Committee on the Status of Women to help women through the pandemic.
The county should provide relief and “view this pandemic through a gendered lens and incorporate principles of equity, inclusion, social and economic justice,” the resolution reads.
“This pandemic has exposed the faultlines in the system,” said Kierkiewicz, who related her own challenges as a working mother of a small child. “It should not be so hard for women; the work we do as mothers, as caregivers, society continues to undervalue and under-appreciate it. … What it really does is say, ‘Women, I see you.’”