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Other coronavirus-related news

Here’s a look at other COVID-19 related stories:

Meals for seniors in county program

Beginning this week, the county Department of Parks and Recreation Elderly Activities Division began a meal delivery program for eligible seniors enrolled in the county’s Nutrition Program.

In compliance with Gov. David Ige’s social distancing requirements, the division worked to convert its two standard meals programs for seniors into a meal delivery network that serves all enrolled seniors at their respective places of residence.

In the initial week the emergency meal delivery program, 3,440 frozen prepared meals will be delivered to 688 seniors who opted into the program. Each senior will receive five nutritious meals per week prepared by one of five different vendors, depending on the recipient’s location.

The vendors are Nani Mau, HCEOC, Cafe 100, Big Island Grill and L&L.

Division staff charted 24 routes around the island to distribute meals. All deliveries on 22 of these routes are performed by division employees, in marked county vehicles, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays, depending on geographic location. The remaining two routes (Wainaku to Paauilo and Honokaa to Waimea) are executed by staff of Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council in their marked vehicles.

In addition to the delivery of meals, Elderly Activities Division staff members are reaching out by phone to the seniors in the highest risk category to ensure they are doing OK and to ask them if there is any way the agency can assist them further during the coronavirus emergency.

The division continues to serve seniors through its Coordinated Services for the Elderly program that provides transportation for doctor’s appointments, pharmaceutical pickups, two-week essentials shopping, as well as emergency services (such as dialysis, cancer treatments, etc.).

For questions about the program, call Roann S. Okamura, Elderly Activities Division operations director, at 961-8708.

Solid waste programs suspended

Because of COVID-19 concerns, the county’s Solid Waste Division suspended the following programs until April 30 or further notice:

• Electronic device recycling collection at recycling and transfer stations. Mr. K’s Recycle &Redemption also announced immediate suspension of electronics recycling at Mr. K’s location in Hilo.

• HI-5 certified redemption centers operated at the county transfer stations.

• Reuse centers at the recycling and transfer stations.

Visit www.hawaiizerowaste.org for future closure information and locations, or call the Solid Waste Division office at 961-8270.

State: Financial assistance available

The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs encourages the public to contact their financial institutions and government agencies to discuss opportunities for financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly $2.2 trillion in emergency economic relief will be made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, which was signed into law in late March. Local and national banks will be processing Small Business Association loans and in particular the Paycheck Protection Program of the CARES Act.

The Paycheck Protection Program authorizes up to $349 billion in loans to small businesses to pay their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program is available to all businesses with 500 or fewer employees to include nonprofits, veterans organizations, tribal business concerns, sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals and independent contractors.

Loans granted through the Paycheck Protection Program will be at a fixed term and are to be used to cover payroll costs including health care benefits, loan and rent payments and utilities.

Loan forgiveness is subject to the borrower using all of the loan proceeds for forgivable purposes and maintaining its employee and compensation levels.

“Banks are now accepting applications from Hawaii’s small businesses,” said Iris Ikeda, Hawaii commissioner of financial institutions. “The funding is made on a first come, first served basis, so I urge all to contact your bank immediately to start the process.”

On April 3, loan applications were opened for small businesses and sole proprietors, and starting Friday independent contractors and self-employed individuals would be able to apply. Applicants need to apply through an approved SBA lender or any federally insured financial institution and are strongly encouraged to apply as soon as possible while funding remains available.

More details about the program are available on the U.S. Treasury website at https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/top-priorities/cares-act/assistance-for-small-businesses. A borrower’s fact sheet can be found at https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/PPP—Fact-Sheet.pdf.

Hirono: Local journalism needs support

U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, joined Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and 17 other senators to call for funding to support local journalists and media in future COVID-19 relief packages.

The letter, sent to Senate leadership, cautions about the already widespread devastation of the coronavirus pandemic on local and regional news outlets that are experiencing sinking advertising revenue while public demand and reliance on local reporting are increasing during the pandemic.

Throughout the country, local and regional news outlets have furloughed or laid off staff. Some newspapers also made cuts or stopped print editions.

“Local news is in a state of crisis that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the senators wrote. “For over a decade, there has been a steady succession of local outlets closing down, reporters being laid off, production schedules cut and resources tightened as the growth of social media and technology platforms has concentrated critical advertising revenue in the hands of a few.

“The current public health crisis has made the already vital role of local news even more critical. Some of the most important guidance for families and businesses during this crisis has been highly localized. Local journalism has been providing communities answers to critical questions, including information on where to get locally tested, hospital capacity, road closures, essential business hours of operation and shelter-in-place orders. During this unprecedented public health crisis, people need to have access to their trusted local news outlets for this reliable and sometimes life-saving information.”
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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