With just a month remaining to spend it or send it back, Hawaii County government had used about 80% of the $80 million in federal coronavirus relief funds it received in March, according to the November update the county sent to the state Thursday.
Total spending to date is $63.1 million, with $16.9 million spent in November.
The bulk of the money, $33.8 million, has gone for recovery initiatives — business and nonprofit grants, rent and mortgage assistance and utility assistance. In fact, that category is $1.8 million over the original budget, as the need for assistance outpaced the allocated resources.
“Monies used to expand these programs were reallocated from other areas of the original budget such as Property Acquisition, Housing, and Construction and Community Assistance (specifically connectivity) as it became clear that some of the awarded monies were simply not going to be spent down by 12/30,” Deputy Finance Director Steven Hunt said in an email response to the newspaper.
The county had plans to implement cells on wheels — vehicles that can park outside housing developments, schools and community centers in areas with spotty internet or Wi-Fi service to improve connectivity for students and adults.
Grants for connectivity were awarded to Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council Mobile WIFI Connectivity Enhancement program ($400,000) and Hawaii Rise Foundation, Vibrant Hawaii Resilience Hubs ($450,000), according to the county’s CARES website.
Public safety and community assistance were the next two largest spending categories after recovery initiatives, accounting for about $11.5 million each. Public safety includes personal protective equipment, disinfectant, sanitizer, face masks, face shields, gloves, foggers as well as costs for lifeguards at Hapuna and Paradise Park and Emergency Medical Services are included.
Community assistance includes food assistance, childcare, community and family resilience programs and outreach programs.
Hunt has assured the County Council that all of the money, the county’s share of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, will be spent before the deadline. If there is anything left over as the deadline nears, the county will buy extra personal protective equipment, sanitizer and shelf-stable food, he said.