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I am back in Washington, D.C. for votes. Yesterday, the House passed my Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act to require states to keep their Emergency Alert System Plans tested and up to date, and it requires the FCC to create best practices for state and local governments.
The January 2018 false missile alert crisis we endured in Hawai‘i revealed deep vulnerabilities within our warning system infrastructure. Given our location as a state and the threats we are exposed to, our warning system must be current, functional, and able to communicate accurate information to people across all available platforms.
I’m continuing to push for much needed COVID-19 relief as cases are rapidly on the rise. Please continue to do your part to stop the spread of this disease: wash your hands, maintain social distance, and wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth.
As one of the first female combat veterans to serve in Congress, I know how important it is that veterans voices are heard on Capitol Hill and am honored to have been given that opportunity by you these past 8 years.
I want to thank all our veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice.
In the coming week, I will be returning to Washington where Congress will work to pass legislation to fund the federal government for the coming year — including vital programs for our veterans. We also have the annual national defense bill to pass and I will continue to press for much needed COVID-19 relief as we continue to confront this pandemic.
I will continue to send these e-newsletters on a weekly basis with updates about our COVID-19 response in Hawaiʻi as well as with news on developments from Capitol Hill.
Free drive-through COVID-19 testing will be provided in Kona on Saturday, November 7, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Please be advised that there will be NO testing in Hilo on Saturday, November 7. The testing will take place at West Hawaii Civic Center, 74-5044 Ane Keohokālole Highway in Kona from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. No insurance is necessary to be tested, but please bring your insurance card if you have one. Please be sure to wear a face covering at all times, and observe social distancing.
Property owners who comply with the County of Hawaii’s Affordable Rental Housing Program requirements may apply for a reduction in real property taxes for the July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022 tax period. Applications are due by December 31, 2020. Owners are required to submit an application annually. Below are the allowed monthly rents by zip code for the tax year 2021-2022 period. For further details including the application, requirements and benefits, please go to http://www.hawaiipropertytax.com/misc.html or call the County of Hawaii, Real Property Tax office at 961-8201 or 323-4880.
Free testing will be offered tomorrow, Nov. 5, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Mitchell Pauole Community Center. All participants must pre-register by visiting minitmed.com/pre-register-maui-covid-19. If you have any problem pre-registering, please call (808) 667-6161 ext: 7, for help and more information.
$4.3 million in federal assistance has been allocated for Hawaiʻi commercial fishing businesses, charter fishing businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, wholesale seafood dealers and processors, subsistence/cultural/ceremonial fishers, and other fishery-related businesses that have experienced revenue losses greater than 35%, or any negative impacts to subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial fisheries. Entities eligible for funding include. For questions about eligibility or to apply, email email@example.com.
Free drive-up testing will be held Wednesdays from 3:00 - 6:00 p.m. in Hilo outside the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium. No appointments are necessary, and results can be accessed online or via text.
Although Halloween traditions in Hawai‘i may look different this year, there are still many ways families can have fun while avoiding the scare of being exposed to or spreading the virus. DOH is recommending celebrating with your household members at home and avoiding traditional door-to-door trick or treating where treats are handed to children or children take candy from a shared bucket. These are high-risk activities as they can result in close contact and crowding among people outside your household. For more tips to stay safe this holiday season visit https://hawaiicovid19.com/safe-halloween/
Mayor Michael Victorino announced an additional $1 million to the Kokua Maui County Small Business Recovery & Relief Fund, bringing the County of Maui’s total for the fund to $8 million in assistance to local businesses. The final deadline for new, first-time applicants is Saturday, Oct. 31. Eligible small businesses can receive a grant of up to $7,500. The fund is available for reimbursable business expenses such as rent/lease payments, utility payments and COVID-19-related safety precautions at a place of business. So far, 926 businesses have been approved, with about $6.2 million disbursed. On Molokai, 31 businesses have been awarded $155,589, and seven Lānaʻi businesses have received over $26,081. The program using CARES Act funds was established in partnership with local federal credit unions to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19. About $1.8 million in funding is still available under the program.
Japan is being added to Hawai‘i’s pre-travel testing program. Starting Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, travelers from Japan may bypass the State of Hawaiʻi’s mandatory 14-day quarantine if they take a COVID-19 test from a trusted testing partner in Japan. The test must be taken no earlier than 72 hours prior to departure and the test must be negative. DOH already approved the use of the COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) conducted by a laboratory authorized by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare for the pre-travel test. As of today, there are a total of 21 trusted testing partners in Japan, which you can find here: https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel-partners/. Japanese nationals traveling abroad are still subject to a 14-day quarantine upon their return to the country. Travel restrictions on U.S. travel to Japan remain in place. For more information visit: https://www.allhawaii.jp/covid19/.
Mayor Michael Victorino announced that the County of Maui received approval from the Governor to issue a mandatory Stay At Home order for Lānaʻi residents and visitors beginning 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27. Under the order, Lānaʻi residents and visitors may leave home or their place of lodging for only essential work and essential activities. Only one member of a household should leave at a time, unless other family members such as children and disabled persons cannot be left alone. All travel will be restricted to only essential work or medical purposes. All other travelers would be required to quarantine for 14 days. The order will remain in place until Nov. 11. Essential workers traveling to Lānaʻi may request limited quarantine by visiting www.MauiCounty.gov.
The Hawaiʻi State Department of Labor & Industrial Relations (DLIR) today announced that it would launch Federal-State Extended benefits (EB) beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, Oct. 27 to Hawaiʻi workers who have exhausted their state and federal jobless benefits. The Federal-State Extended benefits (EB) program kicks in after an unemployed individual exhausts twenty-six weeks of state unemployment and the thirteen weeks of federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). Claimants must be unemployed or underemployed and be able to work and available for work. The program’s weekly benefit amount is the same as the individual received for regular state unemployment insurance. With the additional thirteen weeks, an eligible claimant may receive up to fifty-two weeks of benefits.
Mayor Michael Victorino announced that 800 PCR tests and 11,300 masks are being provided to Lānaʻi residents and local health officials to assist COVID-19 operations on the island. The County is also partnering to provide a virtual community meeting today (Oct. 23) at 6 p.m. HST, where the Hawai‘i National Guard will present COVID-19 health-related information for the Lānaʻi community.
The State of Hawai‘i has been awarded $1.9 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to increase the quality and quantity of locally grown foods in food-insecure communities that import a significant amount of food. The funds will provide grants to qualifying communities over a three-year period. The Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) applied for the Micro-Grants for Food Security Program in August 2020 and was awarded a total of $1,938,556.80. The award was announced yesterday. The grant program is not connected to the CARES Act and was established under the 2018 Farm Bill to provide support for small-scale gardening, herding and livestock operations to help produce food in areas that are food insecure.
The State of Hawai‘i, in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce Hawai‘i, today announced the launch of the Hawai‘i Business Pivot Grant program. The grants will distribute $25 million in financial and training support to struggling small businesses in Hawai‘i to help them adjust to marketplace changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will provide approximately 2,500 small businesses with reimbursement grants to cover expenses up to $10,000 that they incurred implementing changes to their operations, products and services.
Funded by federal CARES Act appropriations, the program provides qualifying businesses reimbursement for eligible expenses incurred since March 20, 2020, including investing in e-commerce, reconfiguring workspaces, adding safety equipment and implementing new business processes. The grant application period starts on October 22, 2020 and will remain open until November 23, 2020, as funds are available. The Chamber of Commerce Hawai‘i will administer the program.
The Hawai‘i Department of Health released updated guidance to elementary, middle, and high schools today to help school administrators make decisions to safely transition between different models of learning — virtual classes, traditional classroom learning, or a combination of at-home learning and in-person learning. The updated reopening thresholds for schools now align with reopening plans for Honolulu and Kaua‘i Counties that were approved by Gov. David Ige and continue to be consistent with recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With the state’s high unemployment rate, the Med-QUEST Division of DHS anticipates the number of those who need health insurance coverage will increase. DHS is encouraging those people to apply for Medicaid immediately. To see if you qualify, go to: http://humanservices.hawaii.gov/blog/med-quest-provides-options-and-updates-for-unemployed-hawaii-residents-in-need-of-health-insurance-coverage/.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell and University of Hawaiʻi John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) announced the beginning of testing operations at the new JABSOM Tropical Medicine Lab, expanding COVID-19 surge capacity for traditional diagnostic tests. The program prioritizes COVID-19 test access for underserved, uninsured, and front-line workers who may require multiple tests for safety at their workplace. The JABSOM lab will be able to administer nucleic acid tests at an outdoor walk-up testing site in Kaka‘ako with the ability to get test results back within 24 to 48 hours. For more information on JABSOM’s walk-up testing, please visit https://tmclinicallab.jabsom.hawaii.edu/lab-services/request-testing/. In addition, the lab will be working with Community Health Centers across O‘ahu to perform and process COVID-19 tests. The testing program will expand on-island COVID-19 testing capacity by nearly 500 tests a day during a week where O‘ahu is beginning to welcome back visitors through the State’s pre-travel testing program and as the city continues to move through Honolulu’s Reopening Strategy.
The County of Maui has added another $1 million to the Kōkua Maui County Small Business Recovery & Relief Fund, and small businesses now have until Oct. 31, 2020, to apply for grants of as much as $7,500. The additional $1 million in CARES Act funding brings the Kōkua Maui County Small Business Recovery & Relief Fund’s total funding to $7 million. The fund was established in a partnership with local federal credit unions to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19. So far, 859 applications have been approved, with more than $5.6 million disbursed. Twenty-four Molokaʻi businesses have been awarded nearly $143,000, and three Lānaʻi businesses have received over $18,500.
Self-response and field data collection operations for the 2020 Census will conclude on October 15, 2020.
Please note that:
- Internet self-response will be available across the nation through October 15, 2020 through 11:59 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time (HST), (through 5:59 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on October 16, 2020). Visit 2020Census.gov to respond today.
- Phone response will be available for its regularly scheduled time on October 15, 2020.
- Paper responses must be postmarked by October 15, 2020.
- Nonresponse Followup census takers will continue resolving nonresponding addresses through the end of the day on October 15, 2020.
Remember, doing your part to complete the questionnaire takes only a few minutes, but will have an impact on Hawai‘i for the next 10 years!
We must be counted so please complete your 2020 U.S. Census today and encourage your family, neighbors, and friends to do the same!
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) extended flexibilities to allow free meals to continue to be available to all children throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year. This unprecedented move is part of USDA’s unwavering commitment to ensuring all children across America have access to nutritious food as the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. Small Business Administration, in consultation with the Treasury Department, today released a simpler loan forgiveness application for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans of $50,000 or less. This action streamlines the PPP forgiveness process to provide financial and administrative relief to America’s smallest businesses while also ensuring sound stewardship of taxpayer dollars. SBA and Treasury have also eased the burden on PPP lenders, allowing lenders to process forgiveness applications more swiftly. SBA began approving PPP forgiveness applications and remitting forgiveness payments to PPP lenders for PPP borrowers on October 2, 2020. Visit the Treasury Department’s website for instructions and the application for the simpler loan forgiveness program.
The pandemic response leadership team provided more details yesterday about the State of Hawaiʻi’s COVID-19 pre-travel testing program for Hawaiʻi inbound travelers, which starts on Oct. 15, 2020. Hawaiʻi’s pre-travel testing program requires passengers five and older to take a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) from a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certified laboratory within 72 hours from the final leg of departure and produce a negative result in order to avoid the state’s 14-day mandatory quarantine. A trained professional must observe all tests. Only test results from trusted testing partners approved by the Hawaiʻi Department of Health will be accepted. Registration instructions and costs can be found at the partners’ websites. Links and more information for travelers seeking a pre-travel test and a list of approved trusted testing partners can be found at HawaiiCovid19.com.
Although Halloween traditions in Hawai‘i may look different this year, there are still many ways families can have fun while avoiding the scare of being exposed to or spreading the virus. DOH is recommending celebrating with your household members at home and avoiding traditional door-to-door trick or treating where treats are handed to children or children take candy from a shared bucket. These are high-risk activities as they can result in close contact and crowding among people outside your household. For more tips to stay safe this holiday season visit: https://hawaiicovid19.com/hawaii-department-of-health-offers-guidance-for-a-safe-halloween/.
The Internal Revenue Service announced that the deadline to register for an Economic Impact Payment (EIP) is now November 21, 2020. This new date will provide an additional five weeks beyond the original deadline. The IRS urges people who don't typically file a tax return – and haven't received an Economic Impact Payment – to register as quickly as possible using the Non-Filers: Enter Info Here tool on IRS.gov. The tool will not be available after November 21.
The Blood Bank of Hawaii is returning to the neighbor islands for the first time since March. In addition to whole blood donations, healthy donors who have a positive, lab-confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis and have been symptom-free for 28 days can contact the blood bank to learn how they can donate plasma. Blood donors do not need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before collection because the virus is not spread through the blood. However, additional COVID-19 protocols and procedures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be followed at all collection locations. To protect donors, walk-ins will not be allowed. Donors must make an appointment online or by telephone. People interested in donating blood can do so for three days at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Hilo Stake Cultural Hall. Collection times are 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22; 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23; and 6 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24. Donors can register at bbh.org or call 808-848-4770.
In anticipation of an active flu season amidst a global pandemic, a drive-thru flu shot clinic will be held in the Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park parking lot on Cooke Street from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. (noon) on Saturday, Oct. 3 and Sunday, Oct. 4. The “Drive Through to Beat the Flu” clinic is available to everyone with or without insurance. Participants are asked to enter the event in their motor vehicle through the intersection of Ward Avenue and Ala Moana Boulevard. The first hour of these clinics (from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.) is reserved for Seniors ages 65 years and older.
Today I voted on the Heroes Act 2.0, a COVID-19 emergency assistance bill that would provide help where it is most urgently needed — our state and counties, our small businesses, and our people.
The bill includes an additional round of $1,200 individual stimulus checks, $75 billion for testing and contact tracing, $436 billion in aid for state and local governments, $225 billion for schools and child care, an extension of the $600 expanded unemployment payments, as well as funding for housing, the U.S. Census, the U.S. Postal Service and the election.
Unfortunately, while it was a move towards compromise, it still was not a bipartisan bill, and the Senate is not expected to vote on it.
We have to find common ground to provide relief to the American people. Our leaders must step up and work together to provide urgent assistance in Hawai‘i and across the country.
In an effort to fill the growing employment gap on Oʻahu, UH Community Colleges will be offering free job skills courses this Fall. The initiative, called Oʻahu Back to Work, is a partnership of the City and County of Honolulu and UH.
Oʻahu Back to Work is a short-term employment training program that runs from October 5, 2020 – December 18, 2020. Instructors at seven UH Community College campuses and the Manoa Outreach College will be providing more than 70 courses to O‘ahu participants.
The courses will be mostly virtual and fall under the following career fields: Business, Health, Industrial Engineering, Technology, Natural Resources, Public and Human Services, and Trades.
To view the courses and sign up: https://oahubacktowork.com.
DBEDT is helping Hawai‘i residents learn for free. The Hawai‘i Technology Development Corporation (HTDC) is currently offering complimentary access to the Coursera online learning platform with registration open until Oct. 31, 2020. Approved users can take their pick from more than 3,000 courses and certifications from top universities and organizations, ranging from technology to business, and personal development offerings.
The initiative, administered through HTDC, offers educational resources to Hawai‘i’s workforce, especially unemployed workers, so they can equip themselves with technology skills and reposition for new career opportunities. Those currently employed or furloughed can leverage Coursera’s offerings to improve their professional skill-sets and take on more advanced technology projects. A list of HTDC recommended courses for those interested in picking up technology skills can be found at https://www.htdc.org/covid-19/learning-tech/.
On Friday, Mayor Michael Victorino announced the launch of the Maui County Adaptability Fund to help local small businesses recover and survive the impacts from COVID-19. Maui Economic Development Board, Inc. (MEDB) is administering the Adaptability Fund, a program funded by the CARES Act and proposed by Mayor Victorino’s MauiCARES Task Force. The County has allocated $5 million to the Adaptability Fund. The program is now accepting online applications.
Parents, guardians and students! As a reminder, ‘Ohana Help Desk agents are available to assist with your technology questions and issues.
Reach out to the ‘Ohana Help Desk at 643-DESK (3375) or go to http://ohanahelpdesk.org.
Maui Now reports that a fourth Bayanihan Food Distribution will be held on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020 at the Binhi at Ani Filipino Community Center in Kahului (780 Onehee Avenue across from Maui Waena School). The upcoming drive-through food distribution is open to the public and begins at 9:30 a.m., and continues until the supplies of hot food, produce and assorted groceries are exhausted. For traffic flow purposes, vehicles must enter Onehee Avenue by turning right from South Papa Avenue. Drivers are reminded not to impede traffic or block driveways.
The City and County of Honolulu acquired the property known as the Harbor Arms Hotel located at 98-130 Lipoa Place in ‘Aiea, Hawai‘i on September 18. The City’s intent in acquiring the property is to increase the availability of low income affordable rental units for families. However, due to the immediate need to ensure the availability of isolation/quarantine rooms for the COVID19 pandemic, the City will initially dedicate the use of the building for this purpose and will partner with the Department of Health who will provide intake and services.
Tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. HST, I will be hosting a Facebook Live town hall from Washington, D.C. where I will talk about the situation at the Yukio Okutsu Veterans Home, the proposed relaxing of the 14-day quarantine for trans-Pacific visitors to Hawai‘i, and the vote I just took tonight which would help avoid a government shutdown at the end of this month.
You can watch by visiting www.facebook.com/RepTulsiGabbard. You don’t need a Facebook account to watch.
Three companies were among the first group of businesses to receive funding to manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) under a program administered by the Hawai‘i Technology Development Corporation (HTDC) and the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT). Over $1 million in grants were awarded to Hawai‘i small businesses to help establish a local supply chain of cleaning supplies and PPE in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Awards can range between $10,000 to $500,000, with larger awards possible if determined necessary by HTDC. The program was appropriated $10 million of federal CARES Act funds by the Hawai‘i State legislature. Online applications are being accepted now through HTDC’s website at www.htdc.org. Completed applications are due no later than October 26, 2020.
The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) today announced updated unemployment insurance claims information, including paying $3,186,067,022 and 3,307,331 weeks claimed since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic on March 1, 2020. With the assistance of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), the DLIR has received approval to pay six weeks of benefits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The program will pay $300 a week to all eligible claimants that have a minimum weekly benefit amount of $100 or more in unemployment insurance benefits. The program excludes those with a weekly benefit amount of less than $100 in weekly unemployment insurance benefits. Payments will be retroactive for the weeks ending 8/1/2020, 8/8/2020, 8/15/2020, 8/22/2020, 8/29/20, and 9/5/20.
Gov. David Ige today announced a new leadership team that will oversee the state’s public health response to COVID-19 and the pre-travel testing program for COVID-19, which will start October 15. Pre-travel testing enables travelers to avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine if they are tested no earlier than 72 hours before their flight arrives with an FDA-approved nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), performed using a nasal swab, and can show proof of negative test results from a CLIA certified laboratory. Travelers also will have their temperatures checked upon arrival and must fill out a travel and health form. Upon arrival in Hawai‘i, passengers unable to provide proof of an approved negative test will be required to go into quarantine for 14 days or until they can provide proof of negative test results.
The People’s Open Markets will resume their regular schedule beginning this Saturday, Sep. 19, with five rotating market locations for that day spanning from Kalihi to Hawai‘i Kai. The markets were most recently closed beginning Saturday, Aug. 8 as part of Emergency Order 2020-23. Their closure was made in an effort to combat the second surge of COVID-19 cases. Under the current Emergency Order 2020-26, certified farmers’ markets are considered essential businesses. With park parking lots reopened, the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation decided to resume market operations once the attendance of enough market vendors was confirmed. Read the full announcement for more information and precautionary measures.
Mayor Michael Victorino announced that drive-through COVID-19 testing and a mask distribution will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 16, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Mitchell Pauole Community Center on Molokai. The County of Maui will be sending about 2,000 masks to be distributed during the drive-through. Minit Medical Urgent Care will administer diagnostic PCR testing and will call individuals with all results, which are expected to take one to three days. Participants should pre-register for the drive-through testing on Minit Medical’s website at www.minitmed.com.
While the Kaua‘i Bus drivers have been providing face masks for riders for most of the year, supplies are running low. While a face mask covering will still be required to ride the bus, drivers will no longer hand out masks starting on Wednesday, September 16. So, while you are welcome to ride, please remember to bring and wear your own mask. Mahalo!
Today, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the allocation of the remaining $1.988 billion in CARES Act funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The allocation focuses funds towards places with households facing higher risk of eviction. To date, HUD has provided nearly $5 billion in CDBG funding nationwide to help communities combat the coronavirus and alleviate economic hardship. Specifically, these funds can assist communities with high rates of individuals in industries with high job loss in states with high unemployment, high rates of businesses in industries with high job loss in states with high unemployment, and concentrations of those most at risk for transmission and risk of eviction, with higher amounts for states with high rates of coronavirus.
The County of Kaua‘i announced the launch of the Kupa`a Kaua`i Rise to Work program. This program will create temporary job opportunities for displaced workers on Kaua‘i. The County is contributing $2 million dollars from the County’s share of the Federal CARES Act funding. Positions with the Rise to Work program will include both part-time and full-time opportunities and will provide health insurance benefits to interested participants. Rise to Work hires will begin their temporary positions in September and are intended work for 12 weeks. Due to the time limitations with CARES Act funding, the hires will complete their employment by the end of December. The program is intended to help displaced workers who have a variety of skills, from artists, graphic designers, project managers, landscapers and laborers, but Rise to Work is not limited to just those occupations.
Yesterday, it was announced that Dr. Jennifer Smith, the brave whistleblower who exposed the dire reality of how few contact tracers were working with the DOH, was forcibly placed on leave and escorted out of the Department of Health building on Friday afternoon, one day after Dr. Sarah Park was placed on leave. This was a clear retaliatory move, punishing Dr. Smith for telling the people of Hawaii the truth about what was really going on at the Department of Health.
Retaliating against a whistleblower further erodes the public trust and sends a dangerously chilling message to others in our government that they better toe the line or they will be punished.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced they will extend several flexibilities through as late as December 31, 2020 to allow summer meal program operators to continue serving free meals to all children into the fall months. This unprecedented move will help ensure – no matter what the situation is on-the-ground – children have access to nutritious food as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA has been and continues to be committed to using the Congressionally appropriated funding that has been made available.
Yesterday it was announced that Dr. Sarah Park, the Hawai‘i Department of Health’s Chief Epidemiologist is taking a leave of absence. With her and Dr. Anderson’s departure, I’m cautiously optimistic that this change will provide new leaders within the Department of Health an opportunity to step up and fix what’s broken.
The public trust has been broken. New leaders in the Department of Health have the opportunity to begin to rebuild that trust by hiring and building a robust testing and tracing operation, and providing transparency to the people about the progress that’s being made. Every day we are losing our loved ones to this virus. We must do all we can to act urgently to defeat it. Allowing the status quo to continue will only result in more unnecessary sickness and death.
August Saw Huge Numbers for COVID-19 in Hawai‘i — Total tests performed as reported by DOH increased from 152,976 to 263,187, an increase of 72%. The month began with 2,111 total cases and ended with 8,472 – a 301% increase.
With an increased number of positive cases all other tracked categories rose as well. Total active cases skyrocketed from 845 to 5,869, a 594% increase statewide.
The total number of patients requiring hospitalization due to COVID-19 increased 183%, starting with 179 and ending the month with 508.
COVID-19 related deaths also increased dramatically by 169%, increasing from 26 deaths on July 31st to 70 deaths on August 31st.
This represents increases more than the previous four months combined in each category.
O‘ahu continues to see the largest increase of cases. The month began with 1,755 and ended with 7,691, a 338% increase. Hawai‘i island followed increasing from 115 cases to 364, a 216% increase. Maui saw a 95% increase beginning with 171 cases and ending the month with 335. Kaua‘i remains fairly constant with very few cases, it started with 47 and ended with 57, a 21% increase over the month.
Yesterday, I was on the H-3 getting tested as part of the surge testing effort on O‘ahu. We went early and it was quite efficient. For those who haven’t gone yet, I encourage you to register. I also have a new webpage with the flier for this surge testing initiative in several languages. Please check it out and share with others who need it!
At 4:00 p.m. today, I will be hosting a telephone town hall where we will talk about the surge testing, how we got to this point, and what we can do about it. I’ll also talk about the recent shake up at the Department of Health and what the state needs to do to get on track. I’ll be joined by Dr. DeWolfe Miller, an epidemiologist, and Dr. Scott Miscovich, who has been at the forefront of testing efforts across the state.
If you haven’t already signed up on my website to get called for the event, you can listen online at gabbard.house.gov/live.
You can visit doineedacovid19test.com to learn more about getting a free COVID-19 test. No doctor referral is needed. The surge tests are being provided to participants through the U.S. government’s Coronavirus Task Force which visited Hawai‘i last week due to the surging number of new COVID-19 infections over the past two months.
Testing is crucial to containing the virus. Yet many people are unaware that free testing is available or are unaware of how important it is to get tested. Please share this information with your family, friends, and neighbors!
Do you need info in different languages to assist you? I have compiled several fliers available in Vietnamese, Tagalog, Marshallese, Korean, Ilocano, Chuukese, and Chinese (Traditional and Simple). Visit my website, gabbard.house.gov/COVID-19/SurgeTesting to view/download them and share!
I just returned to Hawai‘i last night from my Army training mission in Alaska. It was an incredible experience, but there’s no place like home.
As many of you know, I’ve been calling for Dr. Bruce Anderson and Dr. Sarah Park to be removed from their positions due to their failure to protect the people of Hawai‘i during this COVID-19 crisis. Today, it was announced that Dr. Bruce Anderson, the Director of Hawai‘i’s Department of Health, will be retiring.
This is an important step, but now the real change needs to happen. The Governor and the Department of Health need to implement real changes — our state’s contact tracing efforts are still woefully inadequate. While it’s good the Federal government has sent testing capabilities to our state to deal with the surge, we need to improve our ability to test, diagnose, trace, and contain this virus for the long term. The people of Hawai‘i deserve transparency from our state government to begin to regain public trust in our state’s testing and tracing operations.
If you need crisis support, including help with COVID-19 isolation and quarantine, access to mental health resources and substance use treatment, Hawai‘i CARES is just a call away. The newly expanded “one-stop” hotline at 832-3100 or 1(800)753-6879 will connect you to advice and resources. “We’re here to listen and help you get through the challenges of the pandemic and beyond,” said program director Kathryn Boyer. The initiative is a partnership with the state Department of Health and the UH Mānoa’s School of Social Work.
Here are the contacts to reporting COVID-19 violations in the state:
City and County of Honolulu: call 808-723-3900 or email HPDcovidenforce@honolulu.gov.
Kaua‘i County: file an online report here.
Maui County: call (808) 244-6400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hawai‘i County: call the county’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311.
The U.S. Surgeon General announced Tuesday that the federal government will be supporting the State of Hawai‘i with 60,000 COVID-19 tests. The federal government is funding this mass testing in cooperation with various state and county partners and supporters. There will be 5,000 tests offered per day for 12 consecutive days throughout the state at various testing locations. The tests will be offered at no cost to those five years and older. For a list of testing locations and to register for a test, visit doineedacovid19test.com.
Governor Ige has approved a new “stay-at-home” order for Oʻahu starting Thursday at 12:01 a.m., officials announced in a news conference today. The order will remain in effect for two weeks.
The U.S. Census is done once every 10 years and impacts representation in the federal government and the amount of federal resources Hawai‘i gets in the decade that follows.
Mahalo nui loa if you’ve already completed your 2020 Census! Please remind your family, friends, and neighbors to do so too!
If you haven’t completed the 2020 Census yet, please do so today.
10 minutes can have an impact on our state for the next 10 years!
Gov. David Ige’s twelfth supplementary emergency proclamation extends the COVID-19 emergency period through Sept. 30. The emergency proclamation leaves in place the 14-day mandatory quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers and the inter-island travel quarantine only for travelers arriving in the counties of Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i, Maui and Kalawao (Kalaupapa).
The proclamation also empowers the counties to establish an Enhanced Movement Quarantine (EMQ) through agreements with resort or hotel facilities. Participating travelers would be required to stay in clearly defined geographical areas and ensure limited contact with those not subject to self-quarantine.
The proclamation mandates that all persons must wear masks in compliance with the county orders, rules and directives approved by the governor and extends the prohibition on evictions for non-payment of rent until Sept. 30.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell today announced that Governor David Ige has approved the City and County of Honolulu’s Emergency Order No. 2020-24, prohibiting social gatherings on O‘ahu. This Order is effective on Thursday, August 20, and will continue through Wednesday, September 16. The Emergency Order prohibits indoor and outdoor social gatherings of any type and any number of people. For the purposes of this Order a “social gathering” is a gathering or event that brings together people from multiple households or living units at the same time for a discrete, shared or group experience in a single room, space, or place. This includes coming together in a private home, at a conference room, lunch room, or other indoor or outdoor space.
Today, I joined Rep. Anna Eshoo, leader of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health — which has oversight authority of federal funds for testing and tracing efforts — in calling on Governor Ige to account for the over $50 million Hawai‘i has received for its testing contact tracing efforts.
You can read my statement and the full letter by visiting my website.
The Department of Health (DOH) knew the guidelines and impact that contact tracing would have on limiting the spread of the virus, it had months to prepare, and our Congressional delegation delivered the federal dollars needed for it. DOH failed, lied about it, and infections have skyrocketed. Congress needs to know where the money went and this problem needs to be fixed now.
Drive-through COVID-19 testing will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 19, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Keopuolani Regional Park. Keopuolani Regional Park will be closed Wednesday morning and open at 3:00 p.m., following the drive-through COVID-19 testing event. Minit Medical will be administering the drive-through, with PCR diagnostic testing available. Minit Medical will call individuals with all results, which are expected to take one to three days. Both asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals can get tested.
In his latest video update, Mayor Derek Kawakami announced the creation of a County program, through the Office of Economic Development, to support Kaua‘i’s agricultural producers, ranchers, and ocean harvesters. The program would develop a support database that would help businesses grow as well as foster a self-sustaining Kaua‘i that can quickly address gaps in its food chain and meet infrastructure needs.
Since the beginning of this crisis, I have said that testing and contact tracing is the best way we have to stop the spread of COVID-19. State leaders consistently told us we had enough contact tracers and in May, the Governor thanked the Congressional delegation for securing over $50 million for the testing and contact tracing effort. However, it turns out we have in effect very little contact tracing occurring at all.
Dr. Jennifer Smith, an employee at the Department of Health (DOH), bravely alerted us that what we’ve been told by the DOH about their contact tracing program was a lie. Rather than the dozens or over a hundred contact tracers claimed over the past months, there have only been a handful — overwhelmed by surging infections and understaffed to help rein in the spread of this virus.
Today, I had a press conference to draw attention to this failure of leadership.
Hawai‘i went from having nearly no new cases on a daily basis to having hundreds. Day after day, I’ve had to share heartbreaking news of new records of infections and new deaths.
It’s time for change, accountability, and transparency to get our state back on track.
The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) will be accepting donations for its monthly donation event on Friday, Aug. 28, at the Kaua‘i Resource Center (KRC) located at 3460 Ahukini Road in Līhu‘e, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Residents, businesses, and other organizations can bring in unwanted or unneeded items including clothing, small furniture, children’s toys, books, and shoes. Customers are requested to maintain social distancing, wear a mask, and follow all directions from ARC and county staff while on site.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced three grants to strengthen the ability of Alaska-Native-Serving and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions (ANNH) to carry out education, applied research, and related community development programs. ANNH purpose is to address educational needs, as determined by each institution, within a broadly defined arena of food and agricultural sciences-related disciplines. Priority will be given to those projects that enhance educational equity for underrepresented students; strengthen institutional educational capacities; prepare students for careers related to the food, agricultural, and natural resource systems of the United States; and maximize the development and use of resources to improve food and agricultural science teaching programs.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson today announced $472 million in CARES Act funding to help low income families during the coronavirus pandemic. This funding can be used by Public Housing Authorities to help families assisted by Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) and Mainstream vouchers prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus. The funding, made available by the CARES Act legislation passed by Congress, will be awarded to Public Housing Authorities across the Nation. Over $3 Million of this funding is coming to Hawai‘i.
On Friday evening, President Trump announced a number of Executive Orders to address the COVID-19 crisis. While some of these executive orders may be helpful, some were not and there were others that the President has no authority to implement.
The House passed legislation in May called the HEROES Act to provide an additional round of Federal COVID-19 assistance. Unfortunately, the Senate has failed to take action, and negotiations between the bodies of Congress continue.
The biggest challenge we face right now in our state is the continued, out of control spread of this virus and any urgent action should keep focused on that.
There are proven solutions to this pandemic: large-scale testing and contact tracing. I will continue to fight for this to be fully implemented in Hawai‘i and for additional funding from Congress.
Unfortunately, we have over 200 new COVID cases being reported today. And for the second day in a row, O‘ahu is reporting two COVID-19 deaths.
We are already seeing a strain in our hospital resources, and if this spike continues to grow, the number of COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization will outnumber the available emergency beds in the state by the end of the month.
Already, many of the Intensive Care Units on O‘ahu are full or close to full and hospitals are surging, transferring patients, and opening new units to handle new patients.
Yesterday, Governor Ige announced the reinstatement of the mandatory, 14-day quarantine for inter-island travel. He also announced that city and state parks and beaches on O’ahu will be closed, and Honolulu police will dial up enforcement of emergency orders as part of a push to rein in a surge in new COVID-19 cases.
During a news conference earlier today, Governor David Ige announced that the mandatory, 14-day quarantine for inter-island travel will be reinstated, city and state parks and beaches on O’ahu will be closed, and Honolulu police will dial up enforcement of emergency orders as part of a push to rein in a surge in new COVID-19 cases. The inter-island quarantine will go back into effect Tuesday. Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the closure of city and state parks and beaches will start at midnight Friday and extend through Sept. 5.
This week, the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education (HIDOE) launched the nation’s first statewide, comprehensive help desk providing technology support to public school students and their parents as schools offer more opportunities for online and blended learning. The ʻOhana Help Desk will provide self-service and chat support for families experiencing issues connecting to HIDOE systems remotely from home. The help desk will be able to assist with connectivity-related issues (e.g. network and wifi connectivity), access and security issues, device support (e.g. devices, applications, software updates) and general IT support. While other school districts provide tech support to families, HIDOE's help desk is statewide and was designed with a higher level of support, with phone support in multiple languages, chat support and an online portal. The help desk will be able to provide phone support in languages most commonly spoken in Hawaiʻi households – English, Hawaiian, Ilokano, Tagalog, Chuukese and Marshallese.
Gov. Ige has approved the City and County of Honolulu’s amended order that limits indoor and outdoor social gatherings to no more than ten people, regardless of household/living unit affiliation. This is effective immediately. It also specifically restricts funerals and other death related events to ten people (consistent with the limit on gatherings). Both indoors and outdoors, groups of ten must keep a physical distance of at least six feet between members of different households, face coverings must be worn in accordance with the Order, and mingling between separate social gatherings is prohibited.
I hope everyone had a safe weekend. I’m grateful to be back in Hawaii, where I’ll be continuing congressional committee work as Congressional leaders are still negotiating an extension of federal assistance for those unemployed due to COVID-19.
Unfortunately, our own number of COVID-19 cases continues to break new records, with today’s high of 207 cases since yesterday. Testing and tracing capacity are essential for our state to deal with these high numbers and stop the spread of the virus.
It’s long past due for the Department of Health to fully mobilize its contact tracing force of over 400 trained individuals. We have known we would need a high number of contact tracers on standby for a moment such as this. Congress has provided the funding for our state to build our contact tracing capacity. There is no excuse whatsoever for there to be a shortage of contact tracers.
Mayor Michael Victorino announced today updated Public Health Emergency Rules that limit indoor and outdoor social gatherings to no more than 10 people. The updated rules have been signed by Mayor Victorino and sent to the Governor for approval. The rules are to take effect starting today, Friday, July 31, 2020. Businesses and places of worship will still be allowed to function under existing County and State rules. Businesses such as restaurants, bars and beauty salons must continue to follow health and safety guidelines outlined in the emergency rules.
Thanks to everyone who tuned in yesterday for my weekly virtual town hall. There were some great questions and I am glad we had a chance to discuss everything from how we can fight back against the spike in COVID-19 infections to concerns about reopening schools without adequate public health plans in place.
Unfortunately, today we saw another record number of new infections — 124 new cases. Many of these cases are in clusters among individuals who attended large gatherings but did not observe physical distancing, or in which everyone was not wearing a face mask.
Your health is important. The health of your loved ones and those around you are important. Even if you aren’t ill, you may be infected and could transmit the virus unknowingly — especially if you were recently around others. So if you absolutely must leave your home, please be sure to stay physically distanced from others and wear your mask — that covers your nose and your mouth — at all times.
Let’s all do what we can to protect ourselves and one another. We’re all in this together!
With 109 new cases of COVID-19 reported today, unfortunately we have hit a record high. If we continue with the status quo, the numbers will only continue to rise putting more of our loved ones at risk. The basic public health precautions must be strictly followed and enforced if we are to defeat this virus.
Later today during my virtual town hall I will be discussing the latest surge of infections and updates regarding negotiations in Congress for another round of federal emergency assistance.
Unfortunately, we continue to see infection numbers surge across our state with news reports of people attending large indoor gatherings in bars and other locations, not wearing masks and not physical distancing. Unless our officials enforce the public health standards in place, and we work together to defeat this virus, more of our loved ones’ health and lives will be at risk.
Thankfully, Hurricane Douglas was not nearly as strong as forecasts had projected. It was a close call, but welcome news and I hope everyone is safe as we move forward.
Earlier today Senate Republicans unveiled a bill that outlines their proposal of COVID-19 federal emergency assistance. This will serve as the basis for ongoing negotiations between Congressional Democrats and Republicans as the clock quickly moves toward expiring unemployment benefits on July 31st. I’ll keep you posted with further developments.
Join me for my next virtual town hall on Facebook this Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. HST. Read on for more information!
As we wrap up the week, I just voted to pass a bill which will support a wide range of federal department and agency programs vital to Hawai‘i. These include projects like the East-West Center, the Native American Veteran Housing Loan Program and other programs for our military families and veterans, the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, the Regional Biosecurity Program, and several USDA specialty crops, crop health, pest control programs and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
As Hurricane Douglas bears down on our state, we are reminded about the crucial role agencies, like NOAA, play in helping us prepare for and recover from natural disasters.
Today, Rep. Case and I filmed a PSA urging residents to get prepared for hurricane season. It’s important to remember that we must be prepared for Hurricane Douglas in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic which factors into our preparations -- make sure you include face masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant and more. Read on for more information!
Mayor Michael Victorino announced today a partnership with federal credit unions to launch a $3 million recovery and relief fund for local small businesses. The new Kokua Maui County Small Business Recovery & Relief Fund utilizes CARES Act funds to help local small businesses recover and survive impacts from COVID-19. The grant program will begin accepting online applications starting August 3, 2020. The County of Maui is partnering with six chartered FCU’s to implement the program: Maui County FCU, Maui FCU, Valley Isle Community FCU, Kahului FCU, Wailuku FCU and Maui Teachers FCU.
A lot of attention has, rightfully, been focused on preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus and dealing with the COVID-19 public health crisis. However, it is hurricane season and with Tropical Storm Douglas bearing down on the state, it is important to remember to be prepared, including by adjusting your emergency responses to account for COVID-19 precautions — such as making sure your preparations include a 2-week supply of hand sanitizer and masks. Take time today to familiarize yourself with the emergency preparedness guide available on HIEMA’s website and this emergency preparedness handbook from Hawaiian Electric. To track storms, you can also visit the NOAA website.
The County of Maui, Department of Parks and Recreation announced that Keōpūolani Regional Park will be closed Wednesday morning, July 22, and open at 3:00 p.m., following the drive-through COVID-19 testing event. Minit Medical will be conducting the drive-through from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., with diagnostic and antibody testing available. Minit Medical will call individuals with all results, which are expected to take one to three days.
The City and County of Honolulu shut down two liquor establishments for 24 hours over the last 3 days. The first occurred on July 18 and the second occurred yesterday. In both cases, authorities observed these establishments not adhering to COVID-19 precautions including the use of masks and maintaining physical distancing.
Maui Economic Opportunity Inc. continues accepting applications for the Hawaii Emergency Laulima Partnership (H.E.L.P.) program. Through June 30, MEO received 5,690 applications and approved 4,361 for financial assistance through the program, for a total of $1.9 million in assistance. The County of Maui has now allocated $5 million in general funds for the H.E.L.P. program, up from the initial $2 million when the program was launched. The program provided assistance to 11,775 individuals through the end of June.
Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it will begin distributing $10 billion in a second round of high impact COVID-19 area funding to hospitals starting next week. This funding is critical now, as parts of the nation confront a recent surge in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitals elsewhere continue to recover and grapple with the financial hardships caused by the pandemic.
Mayor Michael Victorino announced drive-through testing for COVID-19 on Wednesday, July 22, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Keopuolani Regional Park. Minit Medical will be conducting the drive-through, with diagnostic and anti-body testing available. Minit Medical will call individuals with all results, which are expected to take one to three days.
The U.S. Census Bureau announced that it will begin following up with households in select areas that have not yet responded to the 2020 Census. Starting July 30, census takers will begin interviewing households in several census tracts across the country, including Honolulu.
If you have not already completed your 2020 Census, please visit 2020census.gov today!
10 minutes of your time will make a difference for Hawai‘i over the next 10 years!
The spike in COVID-19 infections has put such a strain on our healthcare system that not only are tests are becoming more difficult to get, it’s also taking longer to get results from the tests that are performed. This critically undermines our ability to do contact tracing of COVID-19 to prevent its spread to others. Hospitals are filling up fast and some states have had to send patients hundreds of miles away to other hospitals to cope with the need.
In partnership with national nonprofit organization the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund), Mayor Harry Kim announced today the launch of a free Financial Navigators program to help residents navigate critical financial issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Financial Navigators will be available remotely starting July 13, 2020, to provide guidance over the phone to help residents access available programs and services to manage income disruptions and other financial concerns. The Financial Navigators program is designed to help residents deal with the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing remote assistance in navigating critical financial issues and making referrals to other appropriate social services and resources. The County of Hawaii will offer these Financial Navigator services in partnership with Hawaii First Federal Credit Union.
Last night, I was on KITV to talk about why we need to delay lifting the 14-day travel quarantine until we have adequate contact testing and tracing capability, and confidence in our medical and testing supplies. You can read about it and watch the video on my website.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still taking a heavy toll on us, leaders in Congress are negotiating another emergency assistance package that is likely to pass by the end of July. I’m pushing for many federal assistance efforts, like the Paycheck Protection Program and moratoriums on evictions, to continue.
Visit my COVID-19 resource page gabbard.house.gov/COVID-19 for more information about federal programs and links to state and local resources — some of which have been made possible by emergency assistance passed by Congress in the past months.
Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded more than $21 million to support health centers' COVID-19 response efforts. The majority of this investment—$17 million—supports 78 Health Center Program look-alikes (LALs) with funding to expand capacity for COVID-19 testing. Due to the urgent need across the country to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, funding to expand capacity for COVID-19 testing is being made available to LALs through the Health Center Program. In Hawai‘i, the Wahiawā Center for Community Health received $184,052 in funds while the Hawai‘i Primary Care Association received $75,000 in support.
As the COVID-19 crisis continues, housing uncertainty is affecting many families. The Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i has a housing issues and coronavirus webpage that has more information with links to additional resources and support they may be able to provide. Also, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands continues to update its resources for homeowners and renters. Check out its COVID-19 resources webpage.
With 41 new positive COVID-19 cases today, we’ve reached the highest number of new infections in a single day for Hawai‘i since this pandemic hit our shores. We cannot let our guard down — we must continue to practice good hygiene including frequently washing your hands, physically distancing, and wearing a cloth face covering that covers your nose and mouth if you must venture out. Remember, your mask protects those around you and their masks protect you. We are all in this together!
I also want to remind small business owners that last week in Congress, we passed a bill to extend the lending deadline for the Paycheck Protection Program. The new deadline is now August 8 and small businesses who have yet to apply should do so before then. You can visit the Small Business Administration’s website (www.sba.gov) for more information about this and other programs. For more information about PPP loans and the extended deadline, visit the SBA’s PPP webpage.
As of July 3, the SBA has approved 2,235,192 Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) totaling $134,631,289,182. In Hawai‘i 13,970 small businesses were approved for these loans totaling $787,482,700.
As of June 30, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved 4,885,388 Paycheck Protection Program loans totaling $521,483,817,756. For Hawai‘i, 24,534 small businesses were approved for PPP loans totaling $2,497,717,752.
The lending deadline for the PPP was originally June 30, but last week we voted to pass a bill that was signed into law extending this deadline to August 8. So if you are a small business in need of help and have not yet applied for PPP, you should go ahead and do so.
The Department of Health’s Disease Outbreak Control Division has launched a webpage focusing on Travelers’ Health and reminds everyone that interisland travel without the 14-day quarantine began on June 16, 2020. This is a step forward on the state’s road to economic recovery. Passengers on flights between the islands are now required to complete a new form before they board a plane for an interisland flight. You can visit the Hawai‘i Department of Health website with a link to the form and visit the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation for more information.
I have just wrapped up two weeks of votes in Washington, D.C., where earlier today we passed legislation that would provide critical funding for transportation in Hawai‘i and across the country. Right now, I am working in the House Armed Services Committee where we are debating the annual national defense bill.
With COVID-19 infections surging across the country, it is clear the negative impacts of this pandemic continue. Congress needs to continue to provide support to our country during this time of need.
Today, the House passed an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program and the bill now heads to the President for his signature to make sure existing funding gets to our small businesses who desperately need help.
Today, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded $8,906,600 in CARES Act funds to the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation (HDOT) through its Section 5311 Rural Area Formula fund. HDOT is receiving the grant on behalf of two sub-recipients: Kaua‘i County Transportation Agency (KTA) and County of Hawai‘i Mass Transit Agency (HMTA). These agencies will use the funds for operational expenses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and will help cover salaries, fuel, vehicle maintenance, and cleaning and disinfection supplies. Two weeks ago, the FTA awarded over $7 million through the CARES Act to the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation (HDOT) on behalf of MauiBus through its Section 5307 Urbanized Area Formula fund.
Over the weekend, we continued to see an increase in the number of COVID-19 infections — and, unfortunately, we saw our first reported COVID-19 related death since the beginning of May.
We cannot be complacent. We must continue to frequently wash our hands and tend to personal hygiene, maintain physical distancing, and continue to wear a cloth face mask that covers both your mouth and nose. We must do these things to help stop the backslide of infections and avoid the need to reintroduce stay-at-home measures.
We are all in this together!
Mayor Harry Kim announced today that, through a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant – Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) funds, the County of Hawai‘i’s Office of Housing and Community Development in partnership with Hope Services Hawai‘i, Inc., is launching an Emergency Rent and Mortgage Assistance Program to provide financial assistance to eligible households whose income has been impacted by COVID-19.
With positive COVID cases increasing in Hawai‘i and across the country, it is critical that we maintain our hand-washing hygiene standards, physical distancing, and wear face coverings or masks to help prevent the spread of the virus. Check out the CDC’s guidelines on cloth face coverings — they should cover your nose and mouth. Remember that your cloth face covering protects those around you and their cloth face covering protects you.
The City and County of Honolulu accepted a delivery of 35,000 donated masks today. This included 20,000 disposable masks donated by the City of Fuzhou, China. Honolulu received a shipment of purchased masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) from Fuzhou earlier this year. The delivery, arranged by Jack Zhang of the Hawai‘i Fujian Business Association, will be used by Honolulu’s first responders in the Honolulu Police Department, Fire Department, and Emergency Services Department.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises consumers not to use any hand sanitizer manufactured by Eskbiochem SA de CV in Mexico, due to the potential presence of methanol (wood alcohol), a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested. Methanol is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitizers and should not be used due to its toxic effects. Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol should seek immediate treatment, which is critical for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning. Substantial methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death. The FDA has identified several products manufactured by Eskbiochem which contain methanol and have included them in their warning.
The County of Hawai‘i announced today that its Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD) will be receiving over $900,000 of Community Development Block Grant funds which were part of the emergency assistance made available as part of the CARES Act. Public agencies and non-profit organizations may apply for these funds to prevent, prepare, and respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and are meant to help address public health, housing, and economic recovery needs.
Today, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand announced that the USDA extended the foreclosure and eviction moratorium for all Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program (SFHGLP) loans through Aug. 31, 2020. The moratorium applies to initiation of foreclosures or completion of foreclosures in process, excluding vacant and abandoned properties, as well as evictions of persons from properties secured by USDA guaranteed loans. To learn more about the USDA Rural Development programs and response to COVID-19, visit its website.
Starting June 17, 2020, limited computer access is available by reservation in 48 of the 51 library branches. Library staff will wear masks and gloves and practice social distancing. Equipment will be cleaned between each 60-minute session. Temporary hours and locations may change in future weeks based on current public health conditions. Get more details and make your reservation on the Hawai‘i State Public Library System website.
This week Maui County announced a partnership with the Hawai‘i Community Foundation (HCF) and Hawaiian Community Assets (HCA) to launch a Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) that will help thousands of residents get into housing — an intervention for economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Maui County and the Hawai‘i Community Foundation each provided matching funds of $250,000, for a total of $500,000, to launch and operate the FOC.
During yesterday’s video update, Mayor Kawakami outlined how the County of Kaua‘i is organizing funds it will be receiving through the CARES Act in order to help Kaua‘i’s COVID-19 recovery efforts. The funds will be used for direct support efforts ($9.25 million), economic and supply chain resiliency ($11.1 million), and response and preparedness ($8.4 million). What initiatives will be supported under each of these categories? Watch the video to find out more.
Interisland travel without the 14-day quarantine begins on June 16, 2020. This is a major step forward on the state’s road to economic recovery. Passengers on flights between the islands are now required to complete a new form before they board a plane for an interisland flight. Read more the requirements, get the form, and read answers to frequently asked questions on the Hawai‘i Department of Health webpage regarding travelers’ health.
Travelers arriving in Hawai‘i from out-of-state are still subject to the 14-day traveler quarantine. Travelers who are subject to the 14-day traveler quarantine should not complete this form. Interisland travel is prohibited for those in quarantine.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today telehealth video appointments using VA Video Connect increased from approximately 10,000 to 120,000 appointments a week between February and May of 2020. This is attributed to VA providers and Veterans taking precautions against COVID-19. VA Video Connect allows Veterans and their caregivers to meet virtually with their VA care teams on any computer, tablet, or mobile device with an internet connection.
This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded $8 million to 73 organizations that provide training and technical assistance to HRSA-funded health centers nationwide. These organizations will provide critical COVID-19 resources to health centers, including support and expertise to advance health centers’ ability to prevent, prepare, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hawai‘i Primary Care Association is receiving $95,408 in funds as part of this effort.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its hurricane preparedness webpage to account for making sure you are prepared and safe this hurricane season during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It covers preparedness, public disaster shelters, how to stay safe after the hurricane hits, and even information for professionals and response workers. You can read more here.
Today, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department awarded $2.96 billion in Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) funding to support homeless Americans and individuals at risk of becoming homeless because of hardships such as job loss, wage reduction, or illness due to COVID-19. This is the remaining amount of ESG funds that Congress approved as part of the CARES Act. You can view the breakdown of how funds were distributed on HUD’s website.
As part of this latest distribution, the City and County of Honolulu will receive $22,370,813 and, statewide, Hawai‘i will get an additional $8,466,976 in ESG funds.
As I announced previously, my usual weekly telephone town hall will be moving to a monthly town hall held on the first Wednesday of every month.
In addition to that, I’ll be hosting a weekly Facebook Live virtual town hall that will stream live on my Facebook Page starting this Wednesday, June 10 at 4:00 p.m. HST.
I will provide a few quick updates and answer some questions — including frequent questions I have been receiving about the coronavirus crisis as well as our response and recovery. You do not need a Facebook account to watch the event.
I will continue to host telephone town hall events monthly, the next one is scheduled for July 1st.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has just put out a video on Renters Protection under the CARES Act. The video, and related information, can be viewed on the Bureau’s website.
To guide homeowners with federally backed loans through the process of obtaining mortgage relief, the CFPB and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors today released a Consumer Relief Guide with borrowers’ rights to mortgage payment forbearance and foreclosure protection under the federal CARES Act. You can view the guide here.
For more CFPB information on housing issues during the COVID-19 public health crisis, you can visit its dedicated website on housing assistance.
Finally, the CFPB also has a website to help people protect and manage their finances during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on so much of our lives — influencing where we go, straining our economic security, and creating anxiety and stress, what to speak of the uncertainty that lies ahead. In yesterday’s tele-town hall I was joined by Sondra Leiggi-Brandon, APRN, and Anthony P. Guerrero, M.D., from The Queen’s Medical Center as well as labor and employment attorney Darin Leong.
We had a good conversation with residents across the state, answering questions, and sharing concerns and resources to help one another. While we may require physical distancing measures to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, we must be sure to find ways to stay connected with our neighbors, friends and family.
In March, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) created the People First Initiative to help people facing the challenges of COVID-19 issues. The program is a series of steps to assist taxpayers by providing relief on a variety of issues ranging from easing payment guidelines to postponing compliance actions. With the extended tax filing deadline fast approaching, if you are facing such challenges, please check out the IRS People First Initiative webpage for more information.
Even though we continue to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and public health crisis, hurricane season is here and it pays to be prepared — and necessary to consider the impact of COVID-19 precautions and conditions when ensuring you are prepared should a hurricane hit. Please visit the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency website to get started and get prepared.
At a press conference today, Governor David Ige announced the lifting of the 14-day quarantine requirement for inter-island travel on June 16.
The U.S. Census Bureau is restarting its field operations to ensure the completion of the 2020 Census. The Honolulu Area Census Office officially reopened today and will be restarting shortly on the Neighbor Islands. To date, the response rates 64.5% and 46.1%, for the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts in Hawai‘i.
It’s been a busy week here in Washington, and I’m looking forward to heading back to Hawai‘i tomorrow. We passed an important bill that improves the Paycheck Protection Program so that it works better for businesses and workers. Our Hawai‘i Congressional Delegation joined together to call on the USDA to make sure its Coronavirus Food Assistance Program helps more of Hawai‘i’s farmers.
On Wednesday, I hosted another telephone town hall to answer your questions about coronavirus testing, relief programs, and what we have to do in order to reopen safely.
Today, I voted for H.R.7010, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, which would provide additional flexibility for small businesses to use PPP funds to make qualifying expenditures for loan forgiveness.
As of last week, the Small Business Administration approved PPP loans to 4,426,118 businesses across America totaling $511,231,948,095. In Hawai‘i, that translated to 23,312 businesses being approved for a total of $2,473,118,450 in loan support.
Read on for more details about how this bill will help make the PPP better. Since it passed the House today, it will now go to the Senate for consideration next week.
Leaders from the Hawai‘i Mental Health Pro Bono COVID-19 Project joined Mayor Kirk Caldwell today to announce a new program to provide support for the psychological well-being and mental health needs of individuals seeking help during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program, conceptualized by Dr. Lawrie Ignacio and Dr. Graham Taylor and coordinated by the Hawai‘i Psychological Association, offers free mental health services provided by a Pro Bono Service Provider to uninsured residents on Oʻahu and throughout the state.
The Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) Grab-and-Go school meals program will be extended at over 35 meal sites for an extra four days beyond the end of the school year on May 28 through Jun. 3. The schools will continue to provide breakfast and lunch free of charge to children 18 years or younger, regardless of eligibility for free or reduced price meals. On May 29, 34 distribution sites will stop serving meals during the summer break. Kauai school sites will stop serving on May 29 and restart on Jun. 8, at which time, 44 school sites will continue to serve meals through Jul. 17, 2020. Sponsor sites at public agencies, churches and nonprofit organizations will begin serving meals to children at additional locations in communities to support keiki.
Yesterday, I joined KHON for a 30 minute virtual town hall event moderated by Gina Mangieri along with fellow panelists Congressman Ed Case (HI01) and Governor David Ige. The discussion covered testing efforts, federal assistance, and how to prevent a second wave of infections. You can watch the complete town hall on KHON’s YouTube Channel.
Mayor Michael Victorino announced a five-week extension of a farmer assistance and food distribution program to help provide food to community organizations that provide food to families and individuals in need. Since late March, more than 6,000 bags of food have been distributed to families in need at over a dozen food distribution events in Central, South and West Maui, Upcountry, Paia-Haiku, Hana, Moloka‘i, and Lānaʻi.
This week, Gov. David Ige announced his plan for the gradual reopening of the state and issued his 8th supplemental emergency proclamation, extending the 14-day quarantine for travelers arriving in the State of Hawai‘i, as well as for inter-island travelers through June 30. The governor also extended through June 30 the eviction moratorium that prevents evictions from residential dwellings for failure to pay rent. Gov. Ige unveiled the re-opening and recovery plan for the State of Hawai‘i — a strategy that conveys the coordinated, statewide approach to jumpstarting the economy and recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. According to the plan – the state will start to gradually re-open medium-risk businesses and operations beginning in June – assuming the state’s COVID-19 activity remains manageable. The re-opening of high-risk businesses and operations will eventually follow, as long as Hawai‘i’s disease activity continues to remain manageable.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will provide $10.25 billion to states, territories, and local jurisdictions through CDC’s existing Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases (ELC) cooperative agreement. The Indian Health Service (IHS) will provide $750 million to IHS, tribal, and urban Indian Health programs to expand testing capacity and testing-related activities. This funding from the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act — the fourth emergency assistance bill passed by Congress — will provide critical support to develop, purchase, administer, process, and analyze COVID-19 tests, conduct surveillance, trace contacts, and related activities. Through these funds, Hawai‘i will receive $50,283,598.
Today, the City and County of Honolulu launched the COVID-19 Household Hardship Relief Program with $25 Million in CARES Act funds designed to support households economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Oʻahu residents can reach out to one of our non-profit community partners to apply directly beginning May 18, 2020 — the Aloha United Way or the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.
I’m in Washington, D.C. and just finished voting for the HEROES Act. While there are some gaping holes and problems with the bill, I supported it because it will provide assistance where it is most urgently needed — in our state and counties, in our small businesses, and in the hands of our people.
We also passed a resolution in the House that will allow for the option of remote proxy voting for those who are unable to return to Washington for votes. It will allow people to make sure their voices are heard, while reducing the public health risk to our constituents that comes from traveling on packed airplanes to and from the districts.
I just arrived in Washington, D.C. Tomorrow, I will be voting on the next emergency assistance bill as well as a rule change that will allow for proxy voting for Members of Congress during this pandemic, in the event they are not able to travel to Washington to vote in person.
The HEROES Act is a $3 trillion bill with extensive reach, and I’m reviewing the bill section by section prior to the vote tomorrow. I will include more updates and details tomorrow.
Yesterday, the City and County of Honolulu announced a Small Business Relief and Recovery Fund using $25 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding. The program, set to be launched on Monday, May 18, will reimburse small businesses for costs incurred from business interruption due to Emergency Proclamations and helps small businesses implement safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The City’s Office of Economic Development (OED) has collaborated with community credit unions to receive grant applications and disburse funds. The participating credit unions are Aloha Pacific Federal Credit Union, Hawai‘i State Federal Credit Union, Hawai‘i USA Federal Credit Union, and Honolulu Federal Credit Union.
Today, I introduced a bipartisan bill with Rep. Rodney Davis from Illinois to help protect our nurses who are on the frontline fighting this pandemic. The Nurse Workforce Protection Act would protect nurses from significant layoffs or reduction of hours by a healthcare facility during the coronavirus crisis, as a condition for receiving federal emergency relief funds.
Tomorrow, I’ll be hosting my next telephone town hall with my guest, Lt. Gov. Josh Green. We will be discussing how things look for the weeks ahead for Hawaii and the nation. I will also be updating you with news from Congress where, right now, the House is preparing its next emergency assistance bill.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the allocation of a third wave in CARES Act coronavirus relief funding. This wave totaling $1 billion is through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. To date, HUD has provided over $3 billion in CDBG funding nationwide to help communities acutely combat coronavirus and alleviate economic hardship. In the latest round of funding, Hawai‘i will receive over $5 million with $975,851 going to Hawai‘i County, $261,137 to Kaua‘i County, $698,280 to Maui County, and $3,081,677 to the City and County of Honolulu.
As we head into the weekend, I wanted to start off by wishing my mom and all the wonderful mothers out there a happy Mother’s Day. Mahalo nui to you all! I wanted to also quickly update you on the Economic Impact Payment from the IRS. The latest figures show that nearly 130 million individuals have received their payments, accounting for $200 billion in support during the first four weeks of the program. In Hawai‘i, 542,426 Economic Impact Payments have been made for a total of $923,960,321. If you haven’t gotten yours yet, the IRS is still working to get payments out to the rest of you.
Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded nearly $583 million to 1,385 HRSA-funded health centers to expand COVID-19 testing. Nearly 88 percent of HRSA-funded health centers report testing patients, with more than 65 percent offering walk-up or drive-up testing. Health centers are currently providing more than 100,000 weekly COVID-19 tests in their local communities. As part of the latest round of funding, 11 community health centers in Hawai‘i received a total of $2,822,219 in supporting funds.
The County of Hawai‘i is working with the Food Basket, the Hawai‘i National Guard, and the State Sheriff’s Division to provide food drop-offs islandwide in May, during the ongoing COVID-19 emergency. The County announcement lists the sites and dates for food drop-offs during May.
Today is National Teacher Day and this week is National Teacher Appreciation Week. To my father-in-law who’s a public school teacher in Hawai‘i, and to all our teachers across the nation, I want to say thank you! I hear from a lot of parents right now who are especially appreciative of the great work our teachers do every single day. If you have a chance this week, thank a teacher for their service!
Leaders in Congress are negotiating the next round of emergency funding, which is focused on providing support for our state and local governments who are providing essential services to our communities.
The U.S. Small Business Administration will begin accepting new Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance applications on a limited basis only to provide relief to U.S. agricultural businesses. The new eligibility is made possible as a result of the latest round of funds appropriated by Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Agricultural businesses includes those businesses engaged in the production of food and fiber, ranching, and raising of livestock, aquaculture, and all other farming and agricultural related industries (as defined by section 18(b) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 647(b)).
The federal government’s CARES Act provides a separate program for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) that extends eligibility to individuals who normally do not qualify for traditional unemployment benefits (e.g., self-employed, gig workers). You can complete the pre-application online at pua.hawaii.gov. Please note that the information you submit, including income, will be validated against the Hawai‘i tax records. If your data does not match, it will delay processing of your application.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded $20 million to increase telehealth access and infrastructure for health care providers and families to help prevent and respond to COVID-19. The funds will increase capability, capacity, and access to telehealth and distant care services.
Yesterday, in an interview published in the Wall Street Journal, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said that Economic Impact Payments — the one-time $1200 direct benefit payments to individuals, $500 for child dependents made possible by the CARES Act— should not be kept by family members of those who are deceased. Secretary Mnuchin noted that people who died in 2018 and 2019 were not eligible for the benefit — technically a tax credit — but that people who die this year still may have a tax-filing obligation for 2020 and therefore may be eligible for the benefit.
The latest emergency funding bill we passed in Congress provided funds for additional testing and tracing, and directed the Administration to develop a national testing strategy. Today, both CVS and Walmart have announced that they will be offering free coronavirus self-swab tests starting in May to individuals that meet the Centers for Disease Control criteria. It is a small, but important step in the right direction to get us to the level of testing we need.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its list of symptoms for COVID-19. Initially, symptoms were limited to fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Additional symptoms now include chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell.
I just landed in Hawai‘i about an hour ago, returning from Washington, DC where Congress passed another round of emergency funding to help with the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis. President Trump signed it into law today. It will provide resources for our small businesses and will help to improve testing and contact tracing to prevent the spread of the virus. Funds from our previous emergency bills, including the CARES Act, continue to get to our state. These resources are helping many of our communities struggling in different ways during this pandemic — from our community health centers, frontline essential workers and caregivers to our students, farmers, and business owners.
Earlier today, I cast my vote for H.R.266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which is the next round of emergency funds to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. While the majority of the bill helps replenish the Paycheck Payment Program (PPP) — which is important to help keep our small businesses afloat — the bill also provided additional funds for hospitals and coronavirus testing.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced an additional $100 billion in emergency relief funds from the CARES Act which was passed at the end of March. The Provider Relief Fund will help reduce the strain on our local healthcare providers as they deal with the pandemic. In particular, a portion of the funds will help states make sure that the uninsured are not left behind while $10 billion is specifically allocated to rural healthcare providers — like so many of our health clinics and hospitals in Hawai‘i.
I just arrived in Washington, DC as House and Senate leaders agreed to a deal with the Administration on the next emergency funding bill to support small businesses struggling with the coronavirus crisis. During my next tele-town hall meeting tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. HT, I will be updating you on this bill and will be joined by guests from the IRS — including Hawai‘i’s local taxpayer advocate — as well as the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has expedited its process to today release emergency grants to strengthen access to treatments for substance use disorders and serious mental illnesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding the increased strain on mental health services, the existing need that preceded the crisis and now is combined with the growing need due to the crisis, these Emergency Grants to Address Mental and Substance Use Disorders During COVID-19 are being awarded now and total $110 million. They will provide up to $2 million for successful state applicants and up to $500,000 for successful territory and tribal applicants for 16 months.
During this public health crisis, our kūpuna are among the most vulnerable in the community. Several public and community efforts are working to ensure that they are cared for and have someone checking in on them or bringing food when needed. Here are some of the programs working across our state to serve them: Our Kūpuna | Help Is On The Way | Meals on Wheels.
Both the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program have run out of appropriated funds due to high demands and as of today, the Small Business Administration is not considering new requests. I joined over 100 of my colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter (over 50 Republican House Members) to the SBA pointing to the magnitude of the crisis we are facing and that these programs need additional funds and improvements to meet the needs of our community. I will continue to fight in Congress for the resources our small businesses and workers need to make it through this crisis.
Today, the IRS launched its “Get My Payment” App webpage to assist individuals in tracking down and receiving their COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment made possible by the CARES Act passed by Congress at the end of March. You can visit the webpage, https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment, to use the app. Last week, the IRS also set up a webpage for non-filers to help claim their Economic Impact Payment.
Sadly, we heard today that one of the sailors aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Teddy Roosevelt has passed away due to complications from COVID-19 infection. My prayers and condolences are with this sailor’s loved ones, and to all assigned to that ship. Your loss is our loss. The threat we face from this virus is real and must be taken seriously by all.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) at 2:00 p.m., I will be joining a webinar with the Small Business Administration’s Hawai‘i District Director, Jane Sawyer. If you’d like to join us, you can register online here.
On Wednesday at 4:00 p.m., I will be hosting my next tele-town hall meeting and invite you to join me. I will be joined by the commanders of the military bases here in Hawai‘i who will discuss how the military is responding to the coronavirus crisis, working with Hawai‘i officials to confront the pandemic, and answer questions. I will also provide an update on the latest news from Congress including our efforts to get emergency funds and support to communities here at home.
Many of you have asked how you can get the Economic Impact Payment that Congress passed as part of the CARES Act — especially if you have not had to file federal income taxes in 2018 and 2019. Now, the IRS has a new website dedicated to helping non-filers provide the information needed to help secure their Economic Impact Payment.
The House Committee on Appropriations has tracked the number of providers receiving funds and total funds received by each state from the CARES Act, the third emergency funding bill passed by Congress. Over $132 million in Public Health and Social Services Emergency funds were delivered to 1,776 providers across Hawai‘i.
Where’s My Economic Impact Payment? That is one of the most common questions I get asked in my office and during my tele-town halls. The Treasury Department has had a delayed rollout of the program Congress passed as part of the CARES Act — a direct benefit to get the money where it is needed most, in the hands of families across America who are being hit the hardest. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is creating a website — Where’s My Economic Impact Payment — to help you find out where your payment is, and to provide missing information should it be required. The Treasury Department and IRS have said they plan on opening the portal next week. I will keep you updated on when the website goes live.
I wanted to share more good news about our community health centers here in Hawai‘i. More than $10 million is being granted to 14 centers across our state through funds made possible by the CARES Act.
I will be talking about this and other updates as Congress considers another round of emergency funds during my tele-town hall this afternoon. I hope you will listen in at gabbard.house.gov/live at 4:00 p.m. (HT) today.
Great news! Our community health centers which are on the front lines of this pandemic are set to get new federal emergency funds in the latest round of grants issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. These funds were made available through the CARES Act — the third emergency funding bill Congress passed in response to this crisis.
I hope you all had a safe and restful weekend. Here’s a quick update. Stay-at-home orders are in full effect in Hawai‘i. In addition to social distancing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone wear a mask to help prevent the spread of the virus. While N95 and surgical masks should be prioritized for our frontline healthcare workers, first responders, and their support staff, there are other types of masks, including cloth masks, that should be worn when you are outside of your home. The CDC has tips on how to wear a face cloth face covering. Of course, be sure to disinfect or wash your reusable masks immediately when not being worn!
The coronavirus crisis is impacting so many of our families and friends in different ways — not just across the country, but also within Hawai‘i. In the past weeks, I have sent letters to the Administration and Congressional leadership calling for a halt to all foreclosure and eviction proceedings, and urging support for SNAP and WIC. As we look to the next emergency funding bill, I am urging Congress to address the needs of farmers, ranchers, military families, rural communities, those living paycheck to paycheck, and the communities that rely on the tourism industry for their livelihoods. I will continue to fight to make sure no one falls through the cracks as we push through this pandemic together.
In response to initial confusion about guidance it issued, the Treasury Department issued a statement indicating that the I.R.S. would use the information on Forms SSA-1099 and RRB-1099 to generate $1,200 payments to Social Security recipients who did not file tax returns in 2018 or 2019. Social security recipients who do not normally file tax returns will not need to file a tax return to receive their payment. Recipients will receive these payments as a direct deposit or by paper check, just as they would normally receive their benefits.
During an interview with National Public Radio, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield noted that as many as 1 in 4 individuals infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus may not present symptoms. Dr. Redfield noted “That's important, because now you have individuals that may not have any symptoms that can contribute to transmission, and we have learned that in fact they do contribute to transmission.”
Dr. Scott Miscovich will be joining me on tomorrow’s telephone town hall. He is a senior advisor to Lt. Gov. Josh Green who has joined us on previous telephone town halls. Dr. Miscovich will cover efforts to improve COVID-19 testing in Hawai‘i. I will discuss the third emergency funding bill that was passed by Congress and other new developments at the Federal level. And, of course, we will be answering questions from Hawai‘i residents.
On Friday, Congress passed its third emergency funding bill in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. It includes direct cash payments to Americans, assistance for those who are out of work due to the outbreak, funding for small businesses, hospitals, and health care workers, and state and local governments, including at least $1.2 billion for Hawai‘i.
Aloha, As we continue to fight the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, here are a few updates.
The third round of direct assistance legislation will pass Congress soon — I’ll be sending you an update shortly on exactly what new and extended benefits are available to all who are being impacted by this crisis. The benefits listed below for unemployment insurance and small business benefits will be expanded and updated in the next few days. Stay tuned.
As we continue to deal with the threats and challenges posed by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to reach out to you with updates on how the crisis is being addressed in Congress and in Hawai‘i.
On Wednesday, March 18, I hosted a telephone town hall meeting with Lt. Gov. Josh Green to update you on the latest developments in our fight against this pandemic. Together, we covered the state’s response as well as what Congress is doing — including efforts I have led to protect Hawai‘i and care for those who are being hit worst by this crisis.
President Trump just announced a deal to reopen the federal government for 21 days, and to provide back pay for the over 800,000 federal workers who have gone for 35 days without pay. This temporary opening will create the opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to come together to address funding levels and authorities for border security and immigration concerns. We cannot allow our government and federal employees to suffer and be held hostage because of partisan politics or policy disagreements.
The House of Representatives was not in session in August, so it was great to be able to spend a few weeks at home. What a month it has been. This year, we've been hit especially hard by natural disasters -- from major flooding and mudslides on Kaua‘i and O‘ahu in April, the ongoing volcanic eruption in Puna on Hawai‘i Island, and just recently, the flooding and wildfires on multiple islands related to Hurricane/Tropical Storm Lane. Read more.
I arrived on Kaua‘i yesterday and received an updated briefing at the Emergency Operations Center. I’ll be headed to the North Shore shortly to spend the day with those who have been hit hardest by this severe weather, providing whatever support I can.
On Monday, March 19, I’m hosting a live “telephone town hall” to share an update on legislation I’ve recently introduced, the Securing America’s Election Act.
As 2018 elections quickly approach, I’m working to pass my bill, the Securing America’s Elections Act (HR 5147) to safeguard our electoral infrastructure from hacking.
As you may know, the Department of Homeland Security reported that 21 state electoral systems were targeted with hacking attempts in the 2016 election, revealing serious vulnerabilities and threatening the integrity of our elections.
It was great to be home for a few days recently in between votes in Washington. Read more.
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal net neutrality regulations which were put in place to protect fair and equal access to the Internet. I spoke out strongly against this decision which benefits the bottom line for major corporations on the backs of the people. Read more.
This week, we commemorate the 76th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, a day that forever changed Hawai‘i and our country. We remember those who paid the ultimate price on that fateful day, and the millions of Americans who answered the call to serve in the months and years that followed, including two of our former U.S. Senators, Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka. Read more
On Tuesday December 5, I’m hosting my last telephone townhall of the year to answer your questions and share information about the proposed tax reform legislation in Congress. I’ll be joined by local and national guests to talk about the tax reform bills introduced in the House and Senate, scams to be aware of in the upcoming tax season, and resources for you and your ohana. To participate in this event, call 888-476-4187 at 4:00pm HST on Tuesday, December 5 and you'll be joined into the call. Read more
Last week, the House passed a disastrous tax bill that provides huge giveaways to corporations and special interests, and leaves everyone else behind. There’s no question our tax code needs serious reform, but this tax bill is not the way to achieve it. I voted against this legislation that increases our national deficit by over $1.4 trillion while ultimately raising taxes for millions of hardworking low-income and middle class families. Click here to read more.
After waiting decades for their service to be recognized, we welcomed our Filipino World War II veterans to our nation’s capital to award them with the Congressional Gold Medal – Congress’s highest civilian honor.
Our country is forever grateful for the service and sacrifice of the over 260,000 Filipino and Filipino American soldiers who bravely served our country during World War II – heroes like Sixto Tabay, the last living Filipino WWII veteran on the island of Kaua'i who I recently had the good fortune to meet. Soldiers like Sixto suffered hardships, fought bravely, and sacrificed greatly, with many giving up their lives alongside their American counterparts throughout the war, yet their service was left unrecognized in the United States for decades. Read more
President Trump’s recent decision to decertify Iran's compliance with the Iran Nuclear Deal has put the peace and security of Hawai'i and the United States at risk. While far from perfect, the purpose of this deal was to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon and to avert all-out war - this is exactly what has been done. This agreement is based on verification, not trust, and so far, according to our U.S. military, intelligence sources, and the international agency compliance experts (IAEA), Iran has complied. Read more
DACA must be protected. DREAMers like Valentin and Berenice on Maui, and so many more across Hawai'i, were brought to the U.S. and Hawai'i as children, through no choice of their own. They've shared heart-wrenching stories with me about living in fear and in the shadows until the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) was put into effect. They cried as they shared how DACA opened new doors for them and brought them out from the shadows, and now are fearing that these newfound freedoms and opportunities could all be taken away. They placed their trust in our government, and are now worried that trust will be betrayed, placing a target on their backs. Listening to their stories, I was inspired by their strength, their dedication to work hard and succeed, and their full hearts of aloha for the communities they’ve lived in almost all of their lives here in Hawai'i. Read more
July 20th marked the one year anniversary of the passing of our friend and colleague, Congressman Mark Takai. Mark was someone who lived his entire life with a heart committed to serving the people of Hawai'i and his country. I'm grateful to have known Mark, and had the honor of serving with Mark in the Hawai'i State Legislature, the Hawai'i Army National Guard, and in Congress where we both served on the Armed Services Committee. I spoke on the House floor last week to remember and honor Mark and his life of service. Read more.
Hope you had a wonderful weekend! Today is the last day to submit your comment to the FCC to help protect net neutrality. Net neutrality is the basic principle that the Internet should continue to be fair, open, and equal for all—not just for those who can afford to pay to play. If net neutrality is repealed, those who have the money will have access to content that those without the means will be shut out from. Net neutrality allows for an open marketplace and exchange of ideas, and levels the playing field, creating a hub for innovation, communication, and so much more. The FCC's current proposals would roll back these freedoms for the benefit and profit of big internet service providers on the backs of students, entrepreneurs and innovators, small businesses, and really, all of us. Read more.
Early Wednesday morning, as I was making my way to the U.S. Capitol, messages and news alerts started popping up on my phone. There had been a shooting, and a Member of Congress, staffers, and Capitol Police were hit. While the others are either in stable condition or are home with their families, our prayers are with Congressman Steve Scalise from Louisiana who remains in critical condition after having undergone three surgeries.
The mood in Washington has been somber, but I’ve been inspired by the camaraderie and spirit of aloha witnessed across the Capitol in the hours and days that followed. Hyper partisanship is tearing our country apart. We must do our best to live aloha and be respectful to others, regardless of our differences, whether they be based on politics, religion, race, or anything else. We can disagree, even strongly, without being disagreeable. In moments like this, we all have the opportunity to reflect and set a new tone, setting aside hatred and divisiveness, and instead choosing love and aloha.
Needless to say, it’s good to be home. I just landed back in Hawai'i a few hours ago, and tomorrow morning I'll join thousands in welcoming the Hokule'a, her sister Hikianalia, and their crew home to Hawai'i. Over the last three years, the Hokule'a has sailed approximately 40,000 nautical miles, visited more than 150 ports, and shared the mission of Malama Honua with more than 100,000 worldwide. On Sunday, I’ll address hundreds of young leaders from Hawai'i and around the globe at the opening session of the 2017 World Youth Congress.