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County almost halfway through coronavirus relief money

Hawaii County spent almost half of its $80 million federal coronavirus relief money in the first seven months of the program, and with three months to go before the money has to be spent or returned, Mayor Harry Kim is confident returning it won’t be an option.

In fact, Kim said Friday, he told Gov. David Ige he may need more.

Kim said the rapid influx of visitors to the island last Thursday following Ige’s rescindment of the 14-day quarantine requirement for passengers testing negative before traveling, and Kim’s own decision to require a second test when they arrive, will easily cost more than the $3.2 million thus far allocated.

“I wish my problem was I might not spend every dollar here,” Kim said. “I guarantee there’s going to be no leftovers when it comes to this.”

Kim said round trip flights of less than $300 between the mainland and Hawaii sent a lot more travelers than anticipated to the state. Instead of the 7,000 travelers estimated earlier in the week for Thursday, more than 10,000 showed up, according to Lt. Gov. Josh Green, as quoted in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Airlines quickly accommodated the extras, Kim said.

“These were not planned vacations for a lot of people,” Kim said. “They were coming in belly-to-belly. I wish the airlines had spaced them out a little bit.”

It’s not only COVID-19 testing that will cost more as the island population swells.

The category of public safety, which includes overtime expenses due to coronavirus, as well as personal protective equipment, disinfectant, sanitizer, face masks, gloves, foggers and costs for lifeguards at Hapuna and Paradise Park and Emergency Medical Services, is also expected to grow. The county spent just $4 million of the $18.3 million budgeted in that category as of Sept. 30, according to the report.

The administration has spent just $2.2 million of the $8.8 million allocated for administrative expenses, only $570,000 of the $5.1 million for property acquisition, construction and housing and just $521,000 of the $3.2 million for equipment and compliance needs.

Community assistance and island recovery initiatives, early priorities of the administration to help people pay rent and utilities, have food and prop up ailing businesses, have spent about half their allotted funds.

In all, the county spent $6.8 million in September, and now has a balance of $41.7 million left from the original $80 million.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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