LIHU‘E — The county is targeting 16 areas of need to inject American Rescue Plan money into, including adolescent drug treatment support, youth mental recovery, houselessness and kupuna needs.
The county will be getting $14 million in direct aid over the next two federal fiscal years from the American Rescue Plan to be distilled in installments, the first amounting to $7,021,034.
“There’s been a lot of attention paid to this tranche of funding in relation to support for state and local government, particularly in light of the economic downturn that has best the country as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic,” County Managing Director Michael Dahilig said Wednesday. “These funds are meant to provide support in areas that we believe are have gaps that need to be filled as a consequence of the economic conditions that have been created by the pandemic.”
Wednesday, Dahilig presented the Kaua‘i County Council a proposed budget of where this $7 million in funds will go.
Much of the money will go toward continuing services, like $1 million to Kaua‘i Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Operations Center’s ongoing response to the pandemic and a 12-week extension to the Office of Economic Development’s Rise to Work program pegged at $1.1 million.
About $2.5 million will go to the Housing Agency which will work on a permanent supportive housing construction project. The agency will also receive $170,000 as flex funds for outreach to get resources in the houseless community.
“Rather than trying to set specific initiatives, we understand that houselessness is a dynamic issue that does not provide a one size fits all solution,” Dahilig said.
The administration reached out to “forward-facing” agencies that engage with the public and provide services, like the Agency on Elderly Affairs. Combined, AEA will receive $200,000 to put toward elderly mental health support and food support.
“We launched a food box program to help pair our local farmers with kupuna who cannot leave their homes and provide them sustenance during that early pandemic period,” Dahilig said.
Additionally, funds will go toward non-profit economic loss support grants ($500,000), domestic violence prevention ($121,033), and agricultural assistance grants ($250,000). A dollar-funded cesspool conversion line-item is still awaiting U.S. Department of Treasury approval.
An additional $3,783,402 is also headed to the county from the state’s share of ARP money. These funds were initially intended for populations under 50,000, but since the state doesn’t have townships or local government agencies smaller than a county, money was awarded to the islands, Dahilig explained.
A proposed budget for these funds will be presented in the future, Dahilig said.
Adolescent Treatment Center
Earlier this year, the state put down $1.3 million in the state’s fiscal-year 2022 budget for the nonprofit Kaua‘i Adolescent Treatment Center for Healing, which will provide a comprehensive continuum of services for adolescents.
The county wanted to contribute to this pot with a $200,000 allocation.
Dahlig said the intent is to “stay focused on the kids.”
“We have no interest in getting bogged down in anything that would impede the progression of being able to find the best formula to get this up and running,” Dahlig said.
Tuesday, an attorney for Hope Treatment Services filed a civil complaint in the Fifth Circuit, citing breach of contract and loss of revenue and profits from the county. The Office of the County Attorney on Wednesday said it had been notified of the filing but had not been served.
“I’m hoping that as a council member, that we can continue to work together and make this center work sooner than later, is it very important,” Councilmember Bernard Carvalho said. “We have a plan in place from what I understand.”
Carvalho and Councilmember KipuKai Kuali‘i have been working with nonprofits and officials in hopes to get the center back to its original mission. The treatment and healing center was a priority for the late Mayor Bryan Baptiste and then-mayor Carvalho’s administrations. The center’s initial purpose was to provide long-term care and outpatient treatment for adolescents with mental health or substance abuse disorders.
Some ARP funds will also separately assist those needs including $300,000 to the Mayor’s Office for Youth Mental Recovery Support Programs.
Dahlig said the county has been in talks with the Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation on the center.
“We remain committed to seeing that the county remains a partner in being able to keep that thing up and running,” Dahlig said. “At this point in time, we have no intention to respond any juncture to calls to have the center revert back to a private entity without cause.”
Since March 2020, the Department of Health has used the facility as an isolation facility for COVID-19-related quarantines.
“I’m very confident that we’re at a place now where the overall direction part is done,” Kuali‘i said. “The day-to-day managerial negotiation part is what’s left and I have every confidence in the mayor and yourself managing director to work out with HHSC and with the new nonprofit, the Kaua‘i Adolescent Treatment Center for Healing, catch on what final steps need to be put in place so that we can get the treatment center up and running ASAP.”