Hawaii governor to extend eviction moratorium by 2 months

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s statewide moratorium on residential evictions is expected to be extended for another two months in a coronavirus emergency proclamation that the state’s governor plans to issue.

Democratic Gov. David Ige also said federal stimulus funds will extend rental assistance to include utility financial aid that could help renters for up to a year, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

There are no plans to provide rent relief for commercial properties, a situation Ige said was challenging. There is difficulty in trying establish moratoriums on evictions by owners of commercial properties “without unfairly advantaging one side,” he said Tuesday.

Instead, Ige said he supports ongoing efforts to provide direct financial help to small businesses.

The state Council on Revenues forecast an additional $300 million increase in revenue this year and is projecting an additional $2 billion over the next seven years, leading to a significant impact on the state’s financial planning, Ige said.

Economic recovery from the pandemic is being driven by Hawaii’s Safe Travels virus testing program for visitors and returning residents.

The program is “helping to reopen hotels and helping to reopen restaurants and small businesses that depend on travelers, in particular,” Ige said.

An improved economy means previously announced 10% budget reductions across the state will fall to 2.5% for the state Department of Education, restoring $123 million to classrooms, Ige said.

But the state’s January revenues remained down 9.4% from the same time last year, meaning cuts will continue to be part of the state’s financial plan, Ige said.

“We still have a significant budget shortfall,” he said.

The state was anticipating a $1.4 billion shortfall in each of the next four years, but Ige could not immediately identify the most recent shortfall estimates. The island economy will not fully recover until at least 2024, he said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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