Cost of COVID-19-related county labor

LIHU‘E — County officials are estimating it’ll cost about $300,000 a month to continue emergency operations, support and other COVID-19-related procedures come the start of the new year.

At this time, some of these costs are covered by federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds, which must be spent by the end of the year. On top of that, the Hawai‘i National Guard is currently activated until the end of the year, and it’s unclear if or when these plans could be extended.

County of Kaua‘i Managing Director Michael Dahilig and Kaua‘i Police Department Assistant Chief Mark Begley briefed the Kaua‘i County Council Thursday regarding COVID-19 efforts.

Councilmember Felicia Cowden, the council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee chair, said she’s concerned about KPD being “unfairly” burdened.

Since Oct. 15, the county has reported about 23 arrests related to quarantine violations, a “significant increase over that period of time compared to the previous eight months,” Begley said Thursday.

Begley added that calls into dispatch and traffic collisions are slowly on their way back to pre-pandemic numbers.

Every day, about 22 Hawai‘i National Guard members are stationed at Lihu‘e Airport alongside 18 KPD officers and about five county employees. This force is tasked with ensuring incoming travelers have the necessary documents to either bypass the state-mandated, 14-day quarantine or have a compliant quarantine location.

In addition to that, there are about 10 guardsmen and three to six KPD officers performing physical compliance checks.

Dahilig went on to say that about $300,000 a month would be needed in county labor for quarantine-related types of work, call-center support and other operations in the future should no federal money come in. The county is working on several contingency plans if the guard is removed, one of which is bringing in members of the Kaua‘i Fire Department.

Cowden asked if the county has looked into contracting a private security firm, which Dahilig said could be a possibility, but then it becomes an issue of “quality control.”

“We need to balance the expectation that we are able to staff with just KPD and whether or not rotating other personnel who are able to handle the type of work with having first-hand knowledge of safety protocol (will work),” Dahilig said. “That is our primary focus.”

Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro suggested the county bring in temporary hires for this work. “I can see people getting burnt out,” Kaneshiro said.

Both Dahilig and Begley said they are monitoring overtime use, particularly overtime spiking, which would increase pension payments in the years to come.

In early October, a KPD spokesperson reported that the department has spent $1,090,150.17 on CARES Act overtime, and projected an additional $600,000 would be spent by the end of the year.


Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or

  1. randy kansas November 13, 2020 7:38 am Reply

    what is the total amount in these funds that need to be spent by year end? what are the balances?

    “At this time, some of these costs are covered by federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds, which must be spent by the end of the year.”

  2. Doug November 13, 2020 9:32 am Reply

    There needs to be an added “fee” or “tax” on rental cars hotel rooms (including TVRs) and airline tickets to cover these costs come January 1st. Why should we bear the cost of selfish people traveling during a pandemic???

  3. Dr. Jim November 14, 2020 7:20 am Reply

    As we look around the rest of the country and see that states on the West Coast, as well as New York and other places, are collectively restricting travel, and recommending that people stay at home other than for essential services, we should ask ourselves whether those same people should be allowed to travel to Hawaii with less restriction than they experience at home. There is a reason that California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada are locking down. That is that their residents pose a risk to other residents of that state. Their governors understand that and recognize that.

    The difference is, that when they get sick at home, they can either go into a hospital system which allows them to be transferred by individual ground transportation to other hospitals if necessary. If one hospital is full, they can drive or take an ambulance to the next one. Once someone shows up sick in Kauai, they are not allowed to leave. If they end up in the hospital, they take 1 of our few available hospital beds. If they end up on a ventilator, they take 1 of our few available ICU beds. There is no transferring them to another hospital system. They become Kauai’s problem for the duration of their illness. We do not possess the resources to accommodate people coming to this island and tying up our limited hospital space. When our hospitals are full, there is not going to be an alternative for people from this island that gets sick. While finances may not be the most important factor in providing medical care, if these people are unable to pay the bill, once they are hospitalized, they will still be provided full care. This will have a long-term negative impact the medical system in Hawaii.

    It is time for both the state and county leadership to acknowledge that this experiment has failed, the same way that it has in other island communities that were relatively free of disease, and stop allowing people to come to Kauai without a mandated quarantine.

    Since it seems unlikely that the governor is going to make the appropriate choice, we are relying on the mayor to do that.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.