Survey: over 4K furloughed employees will lose health insurance

LIHU‘E — According to a recent survey of Kaua‘i businesses, 49% of respondents stated that their business will not survive more than 90 days without the significant return of tourism.

Results of the survey, conducted by the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce and the Hawai‘i Lodging &Tourism Association, Kaua‘i Chapter, were released last week. Survey respondents represent over 4,000 furloughed employees who will lose employer-provided health insurance in the upcoming months.

Additionally, 91% of companies responding indicate they will not be able to provide health insurance for furloughed employees if nothing changes in the next 30 to 90 days.

“Prioritizing the health and safety of our community is everyone’s top concern,” Chamber President Mark Perriello said in a press release. “However, our government leaders must take steps to stimulate economic recovery so that our family and friends can all afford to put food on their plates and keep a roof over their heads.”

Travel to Kaua‘i plummeted after Mayor Derek Kawakami opted out of the state’s Safe Travels program Dec. 2, requiring all travelers to the island to undergo a mandatory 10-day quarantine with no option to test out.

The island changed course and permitted participation in Hawai‘i Safe Travels beginning Jan. 5 and introduced its own trans-Pacific entry program.

Options regarding testing and quarantine at resorts have been difficult to explain and harder to sell to potential visitors, said Mufi Hannemann, president of the Hawai‘i Lodging &Tourism Association.

While the island’s unemployment rate stood at 13.5% in November 2020, the unemployment rate amongst businesses responding to the survey is 90%.

Activity companies and retailers have furloughed 92% and 73% of their employee bases, respectively.

“We all want to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our employees and everyone who calls Kaua‘i home,” HLTA-Kaua‘i President Marc Bennor said in a statement. “In addition to protecting our residents from COVID-19, that means ensuring basic human needs such as food, housing and health care are also considered.”

The survey, conducted in mid-December, reveals deep concerns by employers about their ability to keep their businesses open and their employees at work unless visitor numbers increase. The survey generated more than 100 responses from small businesses to large corporations, and from industries spanning lodging to agriculture.

Hannemann said he is hopeful the mayor will “amend travel directives without compromising his healthy objectives if the current economic downturn worsens.”

Kawakami last week said that during the pandemic there are consequences to every decision, and “most definitely, some of our policy calls have impacted the visitor industry and our economy negatively.”

But those policies also “made an impact as far as keeping this island healthy and safe and avoiding large outbreaks that overwhelmed our hospitals,” Kawakami said. “They’ve certainly played a part in maintaining very low positivity rates.”

The current state of tourism on Kaua‘i impacts everyone, from the large employee base of our island’s hotels to the mom-and-pop businesses and sole proprietors who rely on a thriving economy for their income, the press release said.

The Chamber has over 400 Kaua‘i businesses and organizations among its members.

As representatives of Kaua‘i’s largest employer group and greatest tax-revenue-generator, HLTA-Kaua‘i Chapter’s primary objective is to keep members, communities, and businesses informed, educated and involved in all aspects of the visitor industry and community.


The Associated Press contributed to this brief.

  1. Spatial January 21, 2021 8:05 am Reply

    “Sucks for you”- Mayor Kawakami, Probably

    as he visits the Urgent Care clinic for a paper cut fully covered by his health insurance provided by taxpayers as a public employee.

  2. manawai January 21, 2021 8:44 am Reply

    “Kawakami last week said that during the pandemic there are consequences to every decision, and ‘most definitely, some of our policy calls have impacted the visitor industry and our economy negatively.’ ”

    Notice how he says it affects industry and ecohnomics vs. saying how it effects people and families. Nice way to deflect the consequences of your harsh decisions, Mayor.

  3. Ruta Jordans January 21, 2021 9:30 am Reply

    Another point for universal health care. Health care should not be dependent on employment.

  4. curious dog January 21, 2021 1:52 pm Reply

    Many KI businesses have been getting PPP funding to pay furloughed employees, which includes the ability to maintain their healthcare. Out of the over 400 businesses struggling, how many have received PPP funding & what did they spend it on?

    Please provide an article on PPP in Kauai. Residents here would probably want to know the following:

    1. How much PPP funds have been issued to KI businesses?
    2. How have these businesses been utilizing these funds?
    3. Who monitors how these funds are spent?
    4. Are businesses who receive these funds required to maintain their employees healthcare?
    5. Have these businesses still gone under & if so, are they required to pay back their PPP?
    6. Can employees who are losing their medical care apply for state-issued Medicaid program?

  5. Rahj January 22, 2021 12:05 am Reply

    This could very well lead to an astronomical increase of emergency health issues. People who lose insurance won’t be able to afford prescriptions, preventative wellness checks and screenings that could catch something before it’s serious. This is not good at all. I pretty much blame the bubble
    Boy kawakami for this oversight. But you folks who were all too happy to be collecting unemployment and ppp money rather than fighting against cool mayor cowercommie. This is on you too.

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