COVID-19 rent, utility assistance relief program continues

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Kaua‘i Government Employees Federal Credit Union’s Ivory Lloyd fills sanitizer bottles with Koloa Rum Company sanitizer (they are a Kaua‘i-based company), while Chantal Zarbaugh finds more bling and swag to distribute on International Credit Union Day, Oct. 21.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Kaua‘i Government Employees Federal Credit Union CRUA team, including Bonnie Howard, Kristina Iida, Starlene “Ulu” Kelekoma, and Makana Bacon (missing are Heather Borgess and Marlyn Stoner) celebrate “Free Day,” Wednesday at the Lihu‘e Branch.

LIHU‘E — The first person placed in the housing portion of the county’s Coronavirus Rental and Utility Assistance program was an elderly person who was forced to leave after the landlord sold the property where they were living at, said Bonnie Howard, the Kaua‘i Government Employees Federal Credit Union CRUA manager.

“Since May 10, when the CRUA program started, we have funded approximately $10.3 million, and helped more than 1,600 families with rent and utilities paid,” Howard said. “In partnership with the County of Kaua‘i, we have also housed six families.”

The CRUA manager said they just received the target for November which sits at $14.9 million. The starting budget for the CRUA was $21 million, and KGEFCU feels the program will continue beyond the Dec. 31 expiration date into 2022.

Howard said eligibility for the program is dependent on an applicant being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Applicants must have attempted to find housing, and can turn to KGEFCU and the CRUA program as a final resort.

“This program is growing like wildfire,” Howard said. “Of the six families housed, a lot of them have been houseless for four, or five years. Last week, we set up an intake team at a resort where we processed at least 17 applications after going in with just three appointments.”

Howard and part of her in-take team, including Kristina Iida, Starlene “Ulu” Kelekoma, Makana Bacon, Heather Borgess, and Marlyn Stoner, were enjoying their Wednesday where they were exempted from wearing their “Bank Local” uniforms. Instead of manning tables in the windy outdoors under tents, the team worked with Ivory Lloyd and Chantal Zarbaugh to prepare the KGEFCU branch for the 73rd Annual International Credit Union Day, Oct. 21.

As a member of the Kaua‘i Chapter of the Hawai‘i Credit Union League, KGEFCU participates in the ICU festivities to raise awareness about the work credit unions and other financial cooperatives are doing around the world while reflecting on the credit union movement’s history, promote its achievements, recognize the hard work, and share member experiences.

“I love seeing people’s eyes light up when we are able to help them,” Zarbaugh said. “From opening a savings/checking account to paying rent and utilities and everything in between, our credit union has been there for so many. Our job is never done.”

Zarbaugh said with 68% of Americans struggling paycheck to paycheck and are financially unwell, it’s KGEFCU’s duty to be here for the community.

“CRUA is the most recent way KGEFCU, in partnership with the County of Kaua‘i is helping Kaua‘i families and individuals with rental and utility assistance,” Zarbaugh said. “This program has helped my own family and friends, and words cannot express the tremendous gratitude I have for the CRUA team who helped them through the paperwork and process. These people are in homes right now because of the CRUA program.”

For ICU Day, Oct. 21, Kaua‘i Government Employees Federal Credit Union, serving Kaua‘i for 74 years, will feature a sanitizer refill station with sanitizers produced by the Koloa Rum Company, a Kaua‘i-based company that created the sanitizer during the height of the pandemic, and other gifts for its members at both the Lihu‘e and Kilauea branches.

“‘Building Financial Health for a brighter tomorrow’ is the ICU theme for 2021,” Zarbaugh said. “This is just one small credit union’s efforts of saving the planet one member, and one bottle at a time.”

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