Local projects receive CARES Act green-light

LIHU‘E — At least 36 projects have been selected by the county to receive federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to help the community bounce back during the coronavirus pandemic.

The county received $28,715,551 as part of the as a sub-recipient of the over $862 million received by the state. A portion of these funds, $9.25 million, was split up into direct support, economic and supply-chain resiliency, and response and preparedness. As of Monday, $8,163,108 has been allocated, with more to come as contracts finalize.

Projects range in purpose from micro-business recovery projects with Homestead Community Development and reinventing Hanapepe’s Friday Art Night from the Hanapepe Economic Alliance to emergency hires at Lydgate Park for the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau and a skate park resurfacing project from Na Lei Weli.

Per federal guidelines, all projects must be completed by the end of the year and directly correspond with pandemic response. The county sent out a request for proposals call in June, and notices of award and non-sections were sent out beginning on July 9.

Grants for food support services were delayed, and will likely be sent out this week, according to a county spokesperson.

The county choose proposals that support meal-delivery for high-risk groups, nonprofit economic-loss support for increased services like childcare and other community services, mental health and domestic violence prevention, agriculture assistance, transforming tourism and economic diversification, and support for new temporary hires in the way of agriculture, information technology and conservation.

One of the projects selected for an Agricultural Assistance Grant is the Safe and Stable Kaua‘i Farms Initiative, a partnership among North Shore Economic Vitality Partnership, Malama Kaua‘i and the University of Hawai‘i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources’s Cooperative Extension Service.

The project received $280,246, according to Lisa Rhoden, North Shore EVP’s food safety director.

“Over 80% of the funding goes directly to farmers in the form of grants, resources, and (no cost to farmer) trainings,” she said.

The two-phased initiative focuses on helping local food producers. Rhoden said the project is focused on “outreach and coaching, plus financial resources, to farms to assist them in implementing both food safety and business improvements.”

The first phase of the project will focus on helping farmers and local producers complete upgrades to their farms by providing $5,000 to $10,000 in grants, food safety training, water testing and on-farm food safety assessments. Water testing will be done monthly on-island in Hanapepe by Rhoden. And Emily Kirk of CTAHR will provide trainings. Malama Kaua‘i will handle the distribution of grants.

The grants will be used to improve farm infrastructure or install business or technology to expand the long-term capacity and financial stability of the farm, Rhoden explained.

The second phase will be education, providing four workshops, food safety mentorship and materials for GroupGAP certification preparation, a USDA farm food safety program for large retailers and distributors.

After receiving the funding, the initiative opened enrollment to farmers in the county. The group received 58 applicants and intends to fund up to 40, “focusing on farms that well-positioned to make business and/or food safety enhancements to improve their operations and grow their market,” she said.

“It is our hope that by providing farmers with assistance and resources to meet food safety compliance measures, they will be able to scale operations and access more stable markets than those based primarily on tourism,” Rhoden said.

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Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or sbodon@thegardenisland.com.

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