LIHU‘E — The new COVID-19 relief deal Congress eyed would set aside at least $1.7 billion for Hawai‘i out of a $900 billion federal stimulus aid package.
These federal dollars will be used to fund unemployment, aid for small businesses, schools, vaccine distribution and hospitals and staff. The money will also be used for housing, roads, public transit, as well as Native Hawaiian health and education programs, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) explained in a breakdown Monday.
“Help is on the way,” Schatz said in a statement Monday. “This relief package will help those who’ve lost their job or can’t make rent. It provides more money for businesses and gives our state, hospitals, and health care providers more resources to distribute the vaccine and fight this pandemic.”
Both the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate passed the bill Monday.
In the first round of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money, the state received over $863 million, with the requirement they be spent by the end of the year. This pending legislation would allow an extension on the funds, said Gov. David Ige.
“Emergency funds we received from the federal government have been critical to the state’s wellbeing and we definitely will be looking at additional funds in framing our pandemic-related initiates,” Ige said in a press conference discussing the executive budget biennium for 2021-2023 on Monday.
In this federal package, an estimated $200 million each will go toward unemployment assistance. That kind of unemployment aid covers salaries up to about $65,000 for three months, with an additional $300 per week, the Schatz release said.
Another $200 million will go toward rent relief and eviction moratorium, and an additional $2.4 million for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Last week, Ige signed an emergency proclamation that extended the eviction moratorium to the end of January 2021.
The bill provides about $32 billion for vaccine distribution and procurement nationally. That includes an estimated $35 million to Hawai‘i to distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines. And expand COVID-19 contact tracing, testing and mitigation, the bill includes an estimated $150 million to Hawai‘i as part of $22.4 billion nationally. Another $5 million of a $3 billion package will go toward state hospitals and health care providers.
Regarding broadband internet, the federal government is providing at least $30 million to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to improve broadband infrastructure, expand access to high-speed internet.
The bill also pushes $13 billion each toward agriculture producers and food and nutrition programs, like SNAP benefits, food banks and pantries and school meal programs.
Nationally, the bill provides $325 billion for small businesses, which includes restaurants, hotels and nonprofits. This portion also grants $20 billion to Small Business Administration emergency grants and $15 billion to independent live venues, like independent movie theatres and museums.
A one-time direct-cash payment of $600 for individuals and $1,200 for joint filers plus $600 per eligible child. Benefits phase out with incomes exceeding $150,000 for married couples, $75,000 for singles, and $112,500 for single parents.
Hawai‘i schools will receive an estimated $200 million, which includes $4.4 million for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, $178 million for the state’s Elementary and Secondary School (K-12) Emergency Relief Funding with eligibility for Native Hawaiian Education Programs specifically included, funding for the higher education fund and $20 million to support Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions.
There are also appropriations to support transportation, child care and native-serving community lenders.
“While it’s not enough, and we still have more work to do,” Schatz said, “this will provide help immediately.”