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Sunday, April 05, 2020
April 5, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:17 PM :: 885 Views

COVID: 4th Death, 32 New Cases

239 Candidates File for Election

Celebrating the Human Spirit

Worst Return on Investment. Again.

11,000 participate in Hawaii COVID Contact Tracking Survey

COVID May Knock $2B Hole in Budget

SA: … Last week Carl Bonham, executive director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization estimated that in the year ahead, state tax collections may decline by an unprecedented 10% to 25%.

He cautioned there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding those estimates, but House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke said state economists are also projecting tax collections will decline by 10% next year.

“I do think that is optimistic. I think it’s going to be worse than that,” said Luke. “If you look around, businesses are closing, people are being laid off, small businesses, some of them may never recover. We don’t know when tourism will be at the level that we have seen in the past, and there are no significant alternative industries that can fill those voids.

“We’d better really think about what does this do to our economy for the next, I would say, at least the next two years.”

As a point of comparison, the drop in state tax collections as the Great Recession washed over Hawaii in fiscal year 2009 was nearly 10%.

And the state budget hole may be even deeper because Ige and lawmakers assumed state tax collections would grow by 3% or 4% next year when they developed the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. With the new predictions of a decline in tax collections of 10% or more, the money flowing into the state treasury next year may end up being 13% less than was projected in the budget.

Each percentage-point reduction in tax collections works out to a loss of about $74 million in revenue, which suggests the state could come up short on the order of $1 billion next year. As it stands now, the total general treasury budget for next year is $8.4 billion….

25% + 4% = 29% x $74M per percent = $2.146B per year

Borreca:  There might be no reason for recessed Legislature to return, if recession dries up funds

read … Gov. Ige, lawmakers face grim budget scenario with tough choices ahead

Star-Advertiser Bleeding Money, Lays off 46 Employees

SA: … the Honolulu Star-Advertiser has lost over $3.4 million in advertising revenue. We expect the losses to increase significantly the longer businesses stay closed. This loss has forced us to furlough 46 employees and to reduce the hours of 149 others. Our business is heavily dependent on advertising….

read … Despite the difficulties, the Star-Advertiser’s mission has not changed one iota

Bankruptcy Lawyer: Phone Ringing off Hook

SA: … “This could be unparalleled from what I can see right now,” said Honolulu bankruptcy attorney Greg Dunn, adding that his cases are surging. “I thought the last recession was worse, but this could be the mother of all recessions.”…

Dunn said his phone is ringing off the hook because most of his appointments are done remotely due to social distancing.

“It’s very busy and it’s going to get busier,” Dunn said. “Bankruptcy is usually a lagging indicator (when people file as a last resort). But these are different times that we live in. Things are totally different now. Things are happening so fast with the coronavirus from just a month ago with all these people losing their jobs. It’s not lagging behind. I’ve never seen it like this before.”

Dunn said hearings and meetings of creditors are being conducted by teleconference even with the Bankruptcy Court closed physically. Filings are done online.

“These people who live paycheck to paycheck, once they stop getting a paycheck, they’re going crazy,” Dunn said. “When they couldn’t pay their rent on April 1, what do you you think is happening? Not very good. They have to use their money to buy food.”….

CoC: Businesses need help to survive, so they can rebuild our economy

read … Bankruptcy attorney says Hawaii could see ‘mother of all recessions’

COVID Crisis is so Serious Hawaii County May Actually Stop ‘Creating Positions’!

HTH: … County Council Chairman Aaron Chung is calling for a hiring freeze as the council begins working on a budget for the new fiscal year.

There’s more uncertainty than certainty in the county budgeting process this year, as the administration and County Council try to get a handle on how much of the county’s dwindling revenue stream will be available to spend in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Uncertainty about federal bailout money adds to the challenge and U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, is expected to address the County Council remotely at its Wednesday meeting.

A drastic decline in tourists and closure of hotels and eat-in dining facilities, coupled with less travel on island roadways, is hitting two of the local government’s revenue generators: general excise taxes and fuel tax.

“At this particular point in time, we should implement some sort of hiring freeze until we know what’s going on,” Chung said Friday. “This thing is really up in the air and it’s really fluid.”

The county’s one-half cent GET surcharge was expected to bring in $50 million, while the fuel tax would have garnered $22.4 million, under the mayor’s proposed budget. Those revenues can be used only on roads, the Hele-On bus system and other transportation projects. The $25 million projected for licenses and permits is also likely to drop.

“We are still evaluating the various sources of revenues and trying to estimate what they will be for next fiscal year; many of course will be lower than originally expected,” Finance Director Deanna Sako said. “We are trying to determine how much lower.”

Chung said he’s not making a formal declaration, but he thinks hiring should be frozen and no new positions created. He’d probably exempt the police and fire departments from such an edict, however. Chung said he’s recommending deferral of two requested new positions on the council’s Wednesday agenda — a clerk III for the Department of Human Resources and a temporary legal clerk II in the Prosecutor’s Office.

read … Freeze  

As World Burns Kauai County May Stop Filling Positions, May ‘Limit’ New Vehicle Purchases

TGI: … When the administration of Mayor Derek Kawakami was initially creating next year’s budget, there were proposals for new revenue bills and increased tax rates that imposed higher fees on residents.

But due to the current coronavirus crisis, the administration will not propose these increases to the Kaua‘i County Council for the fiscal year 2021 budget.

With no visitors around the island and reduced spending from residents, there will be decreases in revenues, county Finance Department Director Reiko Matsuyama said Friday.

The bulk of the money that comes into the county is from real property taxes. The property assessments were completed in February. These assessments, along with department-by-department projections, were used to create the proposed budget that was submitted to the council in March.

More revenue assumptions will be shared with the council at its meeting on Wednesday, April 8, which will be telecast live online.

The county will not know exactly how much money will come in from the state just yet, but it can anticipate a full share of the state transient accommodations tax….

The County Council, too, has asked departments to take hard looks at proposed budgets and underscore what’s really needed in case there are revenue shortfalls next year and in the years to come.

Michael Dahilig, county managing director, wrote in a memo to the council that some of the new policies the administration plants to implement due to the current global pandemic include not filling new or vacant positions, limiting new vehicle purchases, and not increasing funds for the Kaua‘i Humane Society….

read … County revenue projections adjusted

Mandatory Mask Order Coming?

SA: … Miscovich said epidemiologists he has conferred with estimate the cases of coronavirus on Oahu are undercounted, with a minimum of 1,000 positive cases and possibly up to 4,000 cases on the island. He said broad-scale testing will help reduce the virus’ spread in the community.

Hawaii’s latest COVID-19 cases come as the state remains under emergency orders, with all residents mandated to stay home except for essential activities until at least April 30.

If people go out in public, state officials have urged that they don masks. Officials are formulating a statewide policy on wearing masks.

“Our hearts go out to the families of the four people whose lives were tragically cut short by this terrible disease,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell in a Facebook post following the announcement. “By staying home, wearing a mask, and keeping our social distance, we can help reduce the number of deaths in Honolulu. We all have to do our part to keep our families, especially our kupuna, safe during this pandemic.”

Anderson said those walking around infected might be unaware that they are carrying coronavirus and cloth masks may block infectious droplets from spreading when they cough, sneeze or, to a lesser degree, speak.

“Protection is maximized when face masks are used consistently and properly to avoid contaminating the hands or face of someone wearing one,” Anderson said….

read … Lawmakers discuss more crackdowns as Hawaii records its fourth COVID-19 death

"Some people stay dying!" - state Senators urge Gov. Ige to be aggressive (whatever that means)

KITV: … Governor's Chief of Staff Linda Chu Takayama dialed into a committee meeting to update the Senators on what the state's been working on since her last meeting with them on Monday.

Senator Kurt Fevella ('Ewa Beach, 'Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of 'Ewa Villages) launched into a long diatribe about Gov. Ige's position on closing state airports. "You keep saying FAA, Trump, this and this. This is our state! He represents the people of Hawaii. He runs DOT. If he says close the airport, close it. How the planes going land? He needs to make a decision deep down! It's better to ask for forgiveness. Some people stay dying!" he thundered, adding that he's "frustrated" with what the state's top office has done so far.

Senator Donna Mercado Kim (Kapalama, 'Alewa, Kalihi Valley, Ft. Shafter, Moanalua Gardens & Valley, portions of Halawa and 'Aiea) echoed that sentiment. "That is why we're asking the Governor to sign the letter to the President. Every day he delays, more and more people will get sick and more and more people will die," she warned.

She is referring to a letter Honolulu's Mayor Kirk Caldwell sent to the White House earlier this week, which was then signed by Maui County and Kauai County's Mayors. The Governor had said later on Friday the FAA won't close the airspace.

As to the controversial idea of releasing over 400 prisoners because Hawaii's overcrowded prisons makes social distancing impossible, Sen. Fevella was besides himself. "Four hundred people! Do they have someplace to stay, jobs? Those are the things the Attorney General and Governor need to know! Don't make a decision for convenience!"…

KHON:  Arrival numbers to Hawaii increase from yesterday

HNN: ‘These people are covidiots’: Kauai’s mayor has choice words for rule breakers

read ... "Some people stay dying!" - state Senators urge Gov. Ige to be aggressive in protecting Hawaii from COVID-19 spread

155 sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt test positive (44% of crew tested)

FOX: … At least 155 sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Navy’s latest update.

They account for 42 percent of all cases among all U.S. sailors worldwide.

The Navy said only about 1,500 sailors have so far been removed from the carrier, which has a crew of 5,000. Earlier this week, Navy brass promised 2,700 would be ashore by now.

About 44 percent of the crew have received coronavirus tests so far. None of the crew members who tested positive have required hospitalization.….

AP: Navy captain removed from carrier tests positive for COVID-19

BJ: The Navy Has Self-Inflicted Troubles

read … 155 sailors on USS Theodore Roosevelt test positive for coronavirus, 42 percent of all Navy infections

Molokai Store Gets 100% Testing—2nd COVID Case Found

MN: … A second case of COVID-19 on Molokai was announced by state and county leaders late Saturday night.

After the first case was confirmed earlier this week from an employee of the Friendly Market Center, Mayor Michael Victorino, Sen. Majority Leader J. Kalani English and Rep. Lynn DeCoite worked with the market’s owners to facilitate testing for all employees.

The second positive test came out of that round of testing, a news release said.

As a result, Friendly Market Center will remain closed until April 20 and employees will undergo self-quarantine….

SA: Second person on Molokai tests positive for COVID-19

read … 100% Testing

Drug Dealers are an ‘Essential Business’  Stay Open During Epidemic

CB: … Most of the dispensaries have also introduced take-out service in which orders can be called in ahead of time and picked up quickly, minimizing the time the customer has to be inside.

But, so far, curb service isn’t available because the Hawaii Department of Health isn’t quite ready for pot dispensaries to be that brazen, according to Casey Rothstein, owner of Green Aloha.

Rothstein’s pot shop here has experienced the same COVID-19-related developments that other dispensaries describe. He said Green Aloha serves about 50 customers per day.

He and other dispensary managers say that in the days before Ige’s stay-at-home order, there was a pronounced uptick in sales as customers — fearful they would be unable to resupply if pot shops were closed down — engaged in binge buying of much higher quantities than normal.

“Before the lockdown, we were crazy busy,” Rothstein said. “Since the order, it’s slowed back down. Before the order, we had the busiest two or three weeks we’ve ever had.”

Rothstein and other dispensary managers say many customers have had perceptibly higher levels of anxiety than before the COVID-19 crisis. “Some people have no anxiety and some people are freaked out,” he said.

Kauai being Kauai, Rothstein described one customer who came in “bundled in plastic,” with two layers of gloves, wearing a mask and safety glasses with goggles over them….

read … Hawaii’s Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Remain Open During Virus Crisis

Tiny homes could become part of response efforts against the coronavirus on Oahu

KITV: … Honolulu City Council member Kymberly Pine says if the homes are built during the Pandemic Response Period, they could qualify for federal funding…..Inside, the space can be whatever you make of it: there is room for a kitchen, bathroom downstairs and small bedroom in the attic. Pine wants 6,000 units to be built on Oahu, some would go for health care workers….

HTH: New homeless camp springs up on lot cleared by county

read … Tiny homes could become part of response efforts against the coronavirus on Oahu

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