Ige unsure when furloughs for state workers will begin

  • IGE

Gov. David Ige on Monday was still unable to say when state workers, including educators, will see furloughs implemented as the state work’s to cut spending to plug a $1.4 billion budget hole.

The governor said his administration was still reviewing the bill, passed last week by U.S. Congress and signed into law Sunday by President Donald Trump, iterating as he said last week that furloughs would be delayed for “all executive branch employees at this time.”

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“We’ll probably, after we review the bill, have a better idea about how much resources we’re getting and then we’ll announce a specific date,” Ige said during a Honolulu Star-Advertiser Spotlight Hawaii program live streamed Monday.

He noted, however, it appeared the new measure is less restrictive than the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed by Trump in March.

“We are glad to see that a lot of the restrictions that were in the original CARES Act, have been relaxed or eliminated altogether, so the funds that we will receive will certainly be a lot more flexible,” Ige said.

The furloughs, which had been due to begin Friday, were announced in early December as a means to save $300 million over a 12-month period, helping plug a $1.4 billion hole in the budget.

About 10,000 state workers would have to stay home two days a month under the plan, resulting in a 9.2% salary cut. Modified furlough plans were released by the state Department of Education and University of Hawaii to take into account the academic calendar.

Also during Monday’s Spotlight Hawaii, rental assistance for residents unable to cover housing costs amid the pandemic is expected to continue.

“The new CARES support bill does actually have specific funds to the State of Hawaii for rental relief,” said Ige, explaining the measure also provides support for utility costs. “For sure there will be some rental and mortgage relief.”

However, it may come via a different program due to the federal funding source, though the state would like to work with the same partners.

“They’ve worked really hard to stand up this program to be able to identify those who have been impacted, and really help us reduce the fraud,” he said. “We’re excited about being able to help many, many more people and, we definitely are up to the task.”

The federal funding source could also impact the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations because the state may not be able to contract for services and adjudicators for unemployment claims as it has been, Ige said.

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“That’s one of the things that we are really drilling down and trying to make sure: whether we can or cannot,” he said, noting that DLIR Director Anne E. Perreira-Eustaquio has started the process of hiring people in the event the work needs to be done “in-house.”

“So, we are staffing up, and then we’ll be reviewing the law to see if it gives us flexibility to contract out for service,” he said.

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