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Wednesday, January 5, 2022
January 5, 2022 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:08 PM :: 1056 Views

Schatz: 'January 6 was round one'

Hawaii budget needs lifestyle change in 2022

DoT: Hawaii Harbors Reopen to Cruise Ships

Federal CDC to Survey Red Hill Health Impacts

Congressional Delegation: Navy Must Comply With DOH Emergency Order To Defuel Red Hill Tanks

Judges, Grand Jury Counsel Needed on Big Island

Hawaii’s Population Drain Outpaces Most States — 10,358 flee

CB: … A few years ago, despite the nation’s lowest unemployment rate, Hawaii was one of the few states that lost population: a situation so striking that a national newspaper described it with the headline, “Hawaii has record-low unemployment and it’s not a frozen hellscape. Why are people leaving?

The population decline has continued in the islands, but in 2020-2021, Hawaii was no longer mostly alone. It was one of 17 states and the District of Columbia with a net loss of residents.

The bad news: Hawaii lost more residents than all but three other states….

Peter Ho, chairman and chief executive of Bank of Hawaii, put it more bluntly. He said Hawaii’s population decline reflects a hollowing out of the state’s middle class, which he calls “an existential economic issue for the state.”

In order to remain strong, Ho said, an economy needs productivity and a growing population, which leads to a larger workforce.

“You’ve got to have one of those conditions to have a vibrant economy,” he said….

In sheer numbers, Hawaii’s recent population loss might not seem big. From July 2020 to July 2021, the state lost 10,358 residents, according to latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. But as a percentage of population, it was a 0.7% loss; only Washington, D.C., New York and Illinois lost more people as a percentage….

read … Hawaii’s Population Drain Outpaces Most States — Again

Lower Income Families May Face Extra Hardships In 2022

CB: … Many lower income families that are already being squeezed by inflation may be headed for a particularly tough year in 2022, state lawmakers were told Tuesday.

Carl Bonham, an economist and executive director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, said those struggling families no longer have access to federal aid such as stimulus payments, advance child care tax credit payments or enhanced unemployment benefits that helped stabilize their finances during the pandemic.

“We don’t want to lose focus on those families. In fact, we want to recognize that things are getting worse for them now, even worse than it was in 2020 and 2021,” Bonham told lawmakers at an annual pre-session briefing on Hawaii’s economy….

Hawaii receives many billions of dollars in what economists call “transfer payments,” which include billions of dollars from federal sources such as social security, Medicaid, Medicare and the extra “Plus-Up” unemployment benefits.

Those transfer payments shot up by 33% in Hawaii during the pandemic, Bonham said, but the federal government does not appear likely to provide similar support in 2022. Bonham said UHERO now estimates those transfer payments will drop by 24% in the year ahead….

But by the middle of the pandemic, “with all of the federal money coming, and if you were getting your unemployment benefits, you were almost certainly better off than you were in 2018 and 2019. But now that’s all been turned around again, because all of that federal money is gone,” he said.

Looking at the overall economy, Bonham said that “we’re in a much, much better place than we were a year ago,” in part because a large fraction of the state population has been vaccinated. By early December, 88% of Hawaii residents who are 12 years old or older had received at least one vaccine injection.

However, there are continuing concerns about Hawaii’s labor force. The state unemployment rate has declined to about 6.3%, but part of that decline has been driven by a shrinking labor pool as workers retired or left the state.

A recent report by UHERO found that the state had about 12,500 more monthly job openings than hires in 2021, which is about 70% higher than in the summer of 2019.

read … Lower Income Families May Face Extra Hardships In 2022

Hawaii is forecast to reach nearly 10 million tourists in 2024

SA: … Hawaii is expected to see 8.86 million visitors this year, followed by annual increases until pre-pandemic record numbers are nearly reached in 2024, when the islands are forecast to see 9.9 million tourists.

At a joint hearing Tuesday of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and House Finance Committee, state economist Eugene Tian projected a rebound of the visitor industry on par with the eve of the pandemic in 2019, when more than 10 million tourists spent $17.8 million in the local economy.

“We don’t see that visitor arrivals will recover … until 2025,” Tian said….

Tian said he expects that “2022 will be a major (economic) recovery, mainly from international tourism.”

But House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke (D, Punchbowl-Pauoa-Nuu­anu) told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the latest tourism projections reflect some pre-pandemic forecasts that Hawaii could see as many as 12 million annual visitors one day from both the mainland and foreign countries….

read … Hawaii is forecast to reach nearly 10 million tourists in 2024

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announces 50% capacity limit on large indoor events on Oahu

SA: … Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, who recently marked one year in office, announced a capacity of 50% for large indoor events on Oahu with more than 1,000 people.

The limit, prompted by the recent surge in single-day infections, goes into effect Monday.

Hawaii’s hospitals are near full capacity with new COVID-19 case counts reaching record highs in recent weeks. Hawaii Department of Health officials reported 2,611 new confirmed and probable coronavirus infections today. State health officials recorded 1,934 cases on Oahu alone….

Blangiardi said no other restrictions will be implemented, but the vaccines will be readily available at various locations to make them more accessible….  

KHON: Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi temporarily limits large indoor event capacity on Oahu to 50%, urges public to use ‘common-sense’

read … Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announces 50% capacity limit on large indoor events on Oahu

Hawaii COVID-19 hospitalizations mount

SA: … The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized reached 202 on Monday, and dipped slightly to 193 on Tuesday, according to the state’s dashboard. Of those 193 patients, 24 were in intensive care and 14 on ventilators….

Meanwhile, Hawaii’s hospitals as of Tuesday had about 2,265 patients total, just 100 shy of the 2,365 during the peak of the delta surge.

The good news is that the proportion of COVID-19 patients landing in intensive care during this surge is much lower than during the delta surge, Raethel said, translating to lower average lengths of stay….

The Queen’s Medical Center, where he works, has about 140 nurses on sick leave or in quarantine due to COVID-19, he said, and is doubling monetary incentive for some to cancel vacations and pick up extra shifts….

On Tuesday, with 176 patients hospitalized out of about 28,000 active COVID-­19 cases, the admission rate is at about 0.63%, he said, or 1 out of every 159 people.

During the peak of the delta wave, 448 patients were hospitalized out of about 11,500 active cases in the state, he said, resulting in an admission rate of 3.9%. That equals to about 1 out of every 25 people….

The average positivity rate for Hawaii reached a record high of 17.1%. In Honolulu County the average positivity rate reached a record high of 19.4%….

SA: Hawaii sees 2,611 new coronavirus cases, bringing statewide total to 126,067

read …Hawaii COVID-19 hospitalizations mount

Hospital workers shortage worsens with more than 1,000 frontline caregivers out due to COVID  

HNN: … As COVID infections continue to surge in Hawaii, the number of frontline caregivers out because of the virus has more than doubled in the past week.

Health officials confirm at least 1,000 clinical workers across the state can’t cover their shifts either because they tested positive or have been exposed.

To make matters worse, more than 100 mainland nurses who were expected to arrive this weekend are delayed. Health officials say FEMA still hasn’t officially signed off on covering the cost of those reinforcements. Now, the earliest they could start is mid-January.

“We still believe the worst of the hospitalizations are in front of us for this surge,” said Hilton Raethel, head of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, who added staffing shortages at hospitals are dire….

read … Hospital workers shortage worsens with more than 1,000 frontline caregivers out due to COVID

Some Hawaii public schools face staffing shortage as COVID-19 infections rise in the state

KITV: … On the first day of school after break on Tuesday, Radford High School principal James Sunday says nine staff and teachers are out sick and finding coverage has been a huge challenge for about 1,300 students at the school….

Other schools are also dealing with staffing shortages. KITV4 received reports security guards at Kapolei High School were called into classrooms to supervise kids.

Sunday says he's also preparing virtual and hybrid learning options if infection rates sky rocket at the school….

Other schools such as Aikahi Elementary in Kailua are implementing surveillance COVID-19 testing, where random students are selected to test twice a week….

SA: Private schools in Hawaii resuming in-person learning

read … Some Hawaii public schools face staffing shortage as COVID-19 infections rise in the state

Pressures of the pandemic delay environmental protection efforts

KITV: … Honolulu County, Maui County, and Kauai County have all initiated their own legislation to significantly decrease single use plastics here on the islands. Those new regulations were set to take effect on January 1st of this year.

But members of the food and retail industry say, that date does not take into account the unprecedented challenges the pandemic has posed over the past two years….

Fossil-fuel based plastic products, including cutlery and containers, will now be replaced with similar products made of a plant based resin material. However, it doesn't come a cheap price.

"We did a performance work out on a typical McDonalds restaurant and just phase one alone we were looking at 30- something thousand dollars a year per restaurant." explained Victor Lim, with the Hawaii Restaurant Association. …

read … Pressures of the pandemic delay environmental protection efforts

Hundreds of domestic violence, DUI cases at risk after state Supreme Court ruling

KHON: … At least one drunk driving case has already been dismissed because of the ruling and hundreds more are in jeopardy.

“It affects every single case that’s in district court ― so harassment, prostitution, minor drug offenses, DUIs,” said defense attorney Victor Bakke.

“The cases that will be most affected will be the domestic violence cases.”

Last month, the high court handed down a decision in a Hawaii Island family violence case ― state v. Corey Thompson.

Thompson was charged with abuse of a household or family member in 2016. But the ruling said the procedures violated a state statute that requires a signed affidavit from the victim.

Legal experts believe hundreds of cases could be dismissed without prejudice and prosecutors would be forced to refile.

Nanci Kreidman of the Domestic Violence Action Center said that could be a problem for victims of abuse. “There’s danger for her if she is required to put her signature on an affidavit,” she said….

read … Hundreds of domestic violence, DUI cases at risk after state Supreme Court ruling

State offering inmates $25 incentive to get booster shot

WHT: … The state is offering a $25 incentive for fully vaccinated inmates in the custody of the Department of Public Safety.

The move follows department’s $50 incentive announced in October 2021 aimed at getting inmates their first COVID-19 shots. The payments are deposited into the inmate’s spendable trust account….

read … State offering inmates $25 incentive to get booster shot

Alleged Game Room Shooter Has Lots of Priors

SA: … Honolulu police arrested a 30 year-old man this morning for allegedly pulling a gun and opening fire in an illegal game room on Jade Street in Makaha on New Year’s day, injuring two players….

Boter had been wanted since June 2019, when Crime Stoppers asked the public to help find him for violating terms of his probation.

On Jan. 2, 2020, officers found him at a home in Makaha, and when they tried to arrest him, he escaped out of an attic window onto the roof before jumping onto a neighbor’s roof. Boter pushed a police officer off the roof during the incident.

The male officer was treated at a hospital and released, police said.

Boter has more than a dozen prior convictions, including assaulting a law enforcement officer, according to court documents….

AP: Hawaii sex offender who wore body armor while filming Michigan sheriff’s office for YouTube pleads to misdemeanor

read … Deserves a Second Chance

HFD investigating blaze in Kakaako that triggered evacuation at homeless shelter

HNN: … witnesses on scene said the fire appeared to have started somewhere between Reuse Hawaii and the homeless shelter….

HFD units arrived on scene of the fire on Keawe Street just before 3:30 a.m.

Upon arrival, heavy smoke was seen coming from behind the Reuse Hawaii facility.

Officials evacuated several people from the nearby Next Step homeless shelter.

read … HFD investigating blaze in Kakaako that triggered evacuation at homeless shelter

Hawaii Council committee advances fare-free bus

HTH: … After being named Monday the fourth Mass Transit administrator in as many years, John Andoh on Tuesday won a County Council endorsement of his first bill, a measure creating a fare-free Hele-On bus system for the next two years, if not longer…..

It’s not the first time the county bus system went fare-free. Former Mayor Harry Kim made the bus free in 2005, a practice that continued for more than five years.

It’s unclear when the new fare-free system would go into effect, once the bill passes the council and is approved by the mayor. Andoh said he wants to allow a little time for those who bought passes or bus coupons to use them up. Because of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, once the fixed-route bus system does fare-free, so must the more costly paratransit system.

Andoh’s plan is to keep the system fare-free as long as possible while the system rebuilds from drastic rider reductions caused by not only the coronavirus pandemic, but also by, as he called it, “past unreliability of our operations.” The more rider miles the system logs, the more grant money becomes available, he said. That will reduce the system’s reliance on general excise taxes.

“We are starting to see people return to the transit system,” Andoh said. “This will help us rebuild ridership (and) give the mass Transit Agency a chance to reset itself when it comes to cash collection.”…

In a 2018 audit, the county auditor said cash accounting was so lax, auditors couldn’t tell if any money is missing, much less how much. A surprise cash count that year found almost $30,000 in bus fare revenue, some of which had been there since July. Money was found in an unlocked safe and on a table in an unlocked break room….

read … Council committee advances fare-free bus

$250 tax credit for homeowners? Council members mull proposal, vote to table it for now

HTH: … The Hawaii County Council is considering granting homeowners a $250 property tax credit to alleviate the financial strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a resolution introduced during Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s Finance Committee, Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy proposed offering eligible homeowners a onetime $250 credit on their 2022 property tax payments for their primary residences.

Under the proposed terms of the credit, properties “in the homeowner class” — meaning properties used as the owner’s principal residence — for which the owner paid the full real property tax due in fiscal year 2021-2022 would be eligible for the credit.

County Finance Director Deanna Sako said there are an estimated 33,000 homeowners on the island who would be eligible for the credit, which is estimated to cost the county about $7.7 million.

But because the proposal is so unprecedented, there remain several open questions about it — including whether it would be legal at all….

Sako said the council does have the authority to increase or decrease real property tax rates via resolution, and can implement a real property tax credit. However, doing so could run afoul of conditions tied to federal coronavirus relief funds the county received last year….

read … $250 tax credit for homeowners? Council members mull proposal, vote to table it for now

Hawaii Avoids Port Backups But Some Goods Are Scarce

CB: …“Those ships never, never get delayed,” said Tom Heberle, vice president of the Hawaii Pilots Association. “We have the infrastructure to handle it. We are really fortunate.”…The state has two primary marine carriers — Matson and Pasha Hawaii — and … They have their own dedicated terminals ….

HNN: See empty shelves at the grocery store? Blame it on the worker shortage

read … Hawaii Avoids Port Backups But Some Goods Are Scarce

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