CARES money hitting the streets: County awards $43 million of its $80 million coronavirus relief grant

  • Health Care workers from Alii Health Center take a patient’s vital signs March 28 during COVID-19 screening at Old Kona Airport Park. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

With less than five months left to use it all or lose it, Hawaii County has been just chipping away at spending $80 million in federal coronavirus relief funds, but the pace is expected to quicken over the coming months as grants are distributed among community organizations and individuals.

In July, the county added $1.4 million to the $2.9 million it spent in the first three months of the COVID-19 emergency, according to its required monthly report to the state. That was primarily used for overtime for Civil Defense and first responders as well as sanitizing materials and personal protective equipment, Mayor Harry Kim said Tuesday.

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But more spending is in the works. In fact, the county has awarded more than half of the money in the past two weeks.

The county last week awarded $31.7 million to three financial organizations to distribute to individuals in need. Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union got the bulk of the money, $22 million, to distribute to businesses and nonprofits for economic assistance.

Another $8.5 million went to Hawaiian Community Assets Inc. for a rent and mortgage assistance program. The Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council was awarded $1.5 million to hand out for non-governmental utility assistance programs.

Kim said those programs are the most important to him because they will provide direct aid to individuals and businesses.

“This will go where it’s most needed,” Kim said. “It’s the bulk of it and we’re trying to get it out where it’s most needed — into people’s pockets.”

The county Monday announced $11.3 million in additional awards to community groups providing needed goods and services during the pandemic.

In the food assistance category, Kohala Coast Resort Association and La’i’Opua 2020 were the top recipients of 11 applicants, receiving $900,000 each. ‘Aha Punana Leo, partnering with Imiloa, received the highest childcare grant at $700,000.

Alii Health Center was granted $1.7 million in the category of community and family resilience and Hawaii Rise Foundation was awarded a total of $1.1 million for community connectivity.

The County Council has also gotten into the act, last week awarding itself $900,000 on a fast-tracked resolution so council members will have $100,000 each to distribute to constituents. Council members will coordinate their grants with the administration to avoid duplication.

The money comes from the $80 million the county is receiving as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

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Proposals go through a three-phase procedure using quantitative ranking, the county says. First, a two-person team screens the applications to ensure all the required information is provided. The proposal then goes to an evaluation committee that assigns points in various categories and creates a priority list that then goes to the director of the Department of Research and Development.

The complete list can be found at https://www.rd.hawaiicounty.gov/economic-development/covid-19-business-resources-and-information/hawai-i-county-coronavirus-relief-fund.

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