Where the money went: Council members disburse $900,000 in CARES funds

  • County Council disbursement of coronavirus relief funds (Hawaii County Finance Department)

Hawaii County Council members focused on food and social and educational programs in divvying up $100,000 in coronavirus relief funds each of the nine members received last summer for projects in their communities.

That’s according to a report from the county Finance Department, provided in response to a public records request.


The nonprofit Hawaii Rise received the most of the dozen or so organizations benefiting from the council’s largess, which used part of the $80 million provided by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The Hilo-based nonprofit, serving as a conduit for Vibrant Hawaii, received donations from five council members, for a total of $172,100. Vibrant Hawaii, also based in Hilo, registered its articles of incorporation as a nonprofit Sept. 25, according to documents filed with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Going Home Hawaii, a nonprofit that helps residents reintegrate into society after serving in correctional facilities, also received money from five council members, but it received a total of just $57,000.

Council members said they were especially interested in Vibrant Hawaii’s work at creating food hubs in communities in their districts.

“I directed CARES funds to Hawaii Rise Foundation to support the Vibrant Hawaii Resilience Hubs Initiative as I wanted to keep as many federal dollars circulating in our local economy as much as possible and amplify the positive impact of every dollar,” said Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz, who donated $63,000 of her allotment to the group. “One component of the initiative is to purchase meals prepared by area restaurants, which source ingredients from local food producers. The bonus is hot meals for keiki, kupuna, and ohana in need.”

South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Maile David split her $60,000 donation to Hawaii Rise between food hubs and learning and computer hubs in Naalehu and Cooper Center. She said because of the short timeframe to allocate the money, she was advised to pick nonprofits that had already been approved by the administration.

“I just really, really wanted to focus on the kids and especially on the food in the Volcano area,” she said Tuesday.

In addition to $18,500 for Hawaii Rise, Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy allocated $50,500 for personal protective equipment for the Merrie Monarch festival. Although festival organizers have since announced the event won’t have a live audience next spring, Lee Loy thinks the PPE will still be needed.

“The world-renowned Merrie Monarch Festival is important for our community, for our culture and for our economy. What happens at Merrie Monarch 2021 could offer a glimpse into the future of many of our island’s signature events,” Lee Loy said. “Even without a live audience for the competition, the need to keep halau, judges and production crew members safe and healthy requires this kind of investment and should new medical advances emerge, PPE will remain relevant.”

The council gave itself permission to spend the money with a fast-tracked resolution Aug. 6, and had to provide its list to the administration by Sept. 30.

The council grants didn’t have to go out to bid, but they must follow federal procurement rules as well as the specific CARES rules. They must be used to pay necessary expenditures incurred due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, addressing medical or public health needs, as well as expenditures incurred to respond to second-order effects of the emergency, such as by providing economic support to those suffering from employment or business interruptions due to coronavirus-related business closures.

County Council Disbursement of Coronavirus Relief Funds

Valerie Poindexter

Hamakua Health Center $53,100

Lokahi Treatment Center $30,000

Going Home Hawaii $10,000

Hawaiian Club Civic $6,900

Aaron Chung

Going Home Hawaii $15,000

Hilo Medical Center, etc. $85,000

Sue Lee Loy

Hawaii Rise $18,500

Community First $31,000

Merrie Monarch $50,500

Ashley Kierkiewicz

Hawaii Rise $63,000

Mindful Living $25,000

Going Home Hawaii $12,000

Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder

Bay Clinic $26,000

Homestead Community Development Corp. $14,000

Dist 5 schools and businesses $60,000

Maile David

Hawaii Rise $60,000

West Hawaii Community Health Center $30,000

Going Home Hawaii $10,000

Rebecca Villegas

ISI Services $50,000

West Hawaii Community Health Center $35,000

Going Home Hawaii $10,000

Hawaii Rise $5,000

Karen Eoff

Laiopua 2020 $55,000

West Hawaii Community Health Center $30,000

West Hawaii Civic Center $15,000

Tim Richards

Hawaii Farm Bureau BRIDGES $46,000

Hawaii Rise $25,600

Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council $20,000

Lynker Technologies $8,400


Source: Hawaii County Department of Finance

West Hawaii Today

  1. irloyal December 9, 2020 2:37 am

    OK People here is a n analysis of the top receivers Administration cost as a percentage of their charitable receipts (as found with Charity Navigator):
    Hamakua Health Center – 64% or $0.64 of every dollar goes to actual dispensing to those who need help. This is in the lower 50% of all charities. almost $810,000 in salaries are paid to the top board members.

    Hawaii Rise has no publicly available information since they claim to receive less than $200,000 in contributions, yet the total from the council is $170,000. Seems more like a public works operation.

    West Hawaii Community Health Center – 73 % or $0.73 of every dollar goes to actual dispensing to those who need help. This is among the best 30% of charities.

    Laiopua 2020 – 75% or $0.75 of every dollar goes to actual dispensing to those who need help. This is among the best 30% of charities.

    ISI Services – 50% or $0.5 of every dollar goes to actual dispensing to those who need help. This is among the worst of charities. Crony driven: LYNN FUJIOKA, PRESIDENT gets a $15,000 salary. Lynn also has other charitable organization associations with a salary.

    So there is some valuable information. It seems that Sue Lee Roy; Ashley K; Maile David; Rebecca Villegas and Tim Richards are the largest supporters of crony driven, poorly managed operations that received funding. REMEBER THESE NAMES!

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