Officials hold virtual town hall Thursday

LIHU‘E — State officials are holding a virtual town hall meeting for Hawai‘i residents on the Zoom platform on Thursday, April 2, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Registration is required to join the meeting and registration closes today at 5 p.m.

The meeting will focus on the statewide economic response to COVID-19 and look ways forward to economic recovery, according to a Tuesday announcement of the town hall meeting.

The list of speakers currently includes Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi, House Speaker Scott Saiki and House Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke, with more to come according to the announcement.

Meanwhile, a petition is now circulating that urges Governor David Ige to take swift and bold action to support Hawai‘i’s small businesses. That petition, started by the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce and supported by the Kauai Chamber of Commerce, points out the costs that have come with COVID-19 rule compliance.

It asks the governor to suspend, defer or provide relief for General Excise Tax and other tax collection; to provide rental relief and mortgage assistance or deferral of payments; low or zero-interest loans for businesses; greater opportunity for direct capital infusion; and for the state support or matching of loans for businesses who receive Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the Small Business Administration.

“The stay-at-home orders and shutdown of sit-down dining and other entertainment services have come at a price—largely paid by Hawai‘i’s local business owners and our employees,” the petition says. “While business has come to a standstill, our April bills and obligations remain. Many of us fear that we won’t be able to make good on these debts and will close permanently.”

The petition also recognizes that the actions included are only “first steps” toward full economic recovery for Hawai‘i.

In Washington, legislators on Capitol Hill are working to clarify tax relief, economic stimulus payments and health care resources as well.

Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz has put together a comprehensive resource guide, which his team has placed on his website — schatz.senate.gov/coronavirus — that helps people navigate unemployment assistance, small business loans, direct cash payments, emergency paid sick leave and mortgage forbearance.

“If you’ve lost your job, need help with your small business, or want more information on what kind of help you can get, I encourage you to visit our website to learn more,” said Schatz in a news release. “There are new federal programs and services that can help thousands of Hawai‘i families and businesses struggling during this pandemic. As more federal assistance becomes available, we’ll continue to work to provide more information about how Hawai‘i families and businesses can access these new resources.”

Thursday’s virtual town hall will be an opportunity to learn about state and local-level approaches to these topics.

Link to register for the Thursday Virtual Town Hall: https://bit.ly/3aDlsnC

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