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Wednesday, May 06, 2020
May 6, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:12 PM :: 1246 Views

State Supreme Court: Victims of Homeless Criminals May Sue Those Who Enable Homelessness

COVID Wipes Out 69% of Jobs on Maui

Ige Announces First Round of Business Re-Openings

List of State Parks Reopening

COVID Count: One New Case, 7 Released

Star-Adv: How to Test Tourists for COVID

SA Editorial: …Hawaii hotelier Jerry Gibson and Keith Vieira, principal of KV &Associates, Hospitality Consulting, met on Monday with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser editorial board, pointing out that tourism can’t restart until the external 14-day quarantine on arriving passengers is lifted.

They maintain that hotels and other visitor services are already developing hygiene and distancing protocols for general protection; they added that about 60 days’ lead time is needed to fully prepare.

These protocols should be ultimately adopted as statewide standards of business. The plan also must include provisions for contact tracing in the event of infections with COVID-19.

The target date should be set, but in the near term, waiving of the external quarantine requirement should be conditional. Prospective visitors should be told they need to provide some medical clearance in the pre-boarding sequence en route to Hawaii if they want the quarantine waived. Those who decline would need to enter the two weeks of quarantine that are now required.

Pre-boarding testing is already being required for some international travelers: Airlines based in the United Arab Emirates began such a program in mid-April. Hong Kong also became the first airport to mandate testing for passengers originating from high-risk areas.….

Assuming they meet the airlines’ travel rules, travelers would come under existing quarantine requirements. Most should be willing to get screened, either at the airport or by another provider, to get a clearance. Averting the 14-day constraint on their movement is the lure….

read … Prepare now for tourism’s return

State says retailers on Oahu, Maui won’t be allowed to reopen this week as governor announced (Ooops!)

HNN: … In a major communications fumble, the Governor’s Office on Tuesday night said that retailers would not be allowed to reopen on Oahu and Maui this week as the governor said earlier in the day.

Instead, retailers on Oahu are now not allowed to reopen until May 15.

And in Maui County, retailers and shopping malls have no date for reopening.

The about-face adds to confusion about the governor’s reopening announcement — and is sure to leave many Hawaii businesses scrambling for confirmation on when they can actually reopen their doors.

In a mid-day news conference Tuesday, Gov. David Ige said that shopping malls, retailers and a host of other businesses statewide would be allowed to reopen Thursday as part of a “phase 1” reboot of the economy.

The announcement blindsided Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who said in a news conference later in the day that he had not been filled in on the timing of the plan and was worried that the rapid reopening would put people at risk.

Then, in a news release issued just before 8 p.m., the Governor’s Office amended the message, saying that retailers wouldn’t open on Oahu until May 15 — the date Caldwell had suggested — and had no set reopening date on Maui.

It was not immediately clear if the governor’s order was changed based on the concerns from the mayors or if the governor failed to clarify county-specific differences in his earlier announcement.

The Governor’s Office didn’t respond Tuesday night to a request for comment….

read … State says retailers on Oahu, Maui won’t be allowed to reopen this week as governor announced

Kauai Cancels Curfew, Reopens Malls, Elective Medical Procedures

KGI: … Both Gov. David Ige and Mayor Derek Kawakami announced coming relaxed restrictions on Tuesday, with Kawakami canceling the overnight Kaua‘i curfew and Ige announcing a list of businesses that can reopen on Thursday.

Those businesses include shopping malls and retail stores, car washes and pet groomers, and health-care and social-assistance agencies, including elective surgery and non-emergency services.

And, in preparation, organizations like The Shops at Kukui‘ula are gearing up to open storefronts that aren’t already open under “essential business.”…

read … Easing restrictions

COVID: The Treatment is Worse than the Disease

CB: … he biggest threat to the world is not some virus, but the widespread existential fear, bordering on panic, that has taken hold.

The central tenet of the “we’re all going to die” sensation that appears to have gripped the world (and allows politicians to impose rules that wreak unprecedented havoc on the lives of billions of people) is that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a lethal threat to all of us….

read … SARS-CoV-2 Is Not A Killer Virus

Hooser: COVID is great. This is Utopia.

Hooser: … we can be on the beach walking by 7 a.m. We walk a stretch of coastline nearby that’s mostly deserted and devoid of other humans at that time of the morning.

Accompanied by our dog Max, we walk a few miles along the coast, navigating the massive tree trunks buried in the sand, the twisted piles of driftwood, and the occasional rain squalls that come through from the east. We have that hour or two mostly to ourselves, sharing it only with an occasional fisherman or random jogger who, without fail, gives us a smile and a pleasant “good morning.”…

read … COVID is great. This is Utopia.

Health experts say it’s too soon to reopen Malls

SA: …The state Department of Health (still refusing to work with HNG personnel)  has yet to expand its workforce to deal with a surge in cases. It currently has 50 staff and about 30 volunteers to do the labor- intensive work of following up on close contacts of COVID-19-infected cases. The National Association of County & City Health Officials suggests that in an emergency, teams of 30 — including epidemiologists, disease investigation specialists, public health nurses and community health workers — per 100,000 should be in place for contact tracing to be effective. In Hawaii’s case, that means 420 staff — 300 on Oahu alone — would be needed for a population of 1.4 million….

“Opening malls is brain-dead. That’s just inviting crowds. That’s just foolish. One thing we know about the virus is it loves crowds. The last thing we want to do is bring people together,” said Dr. Tim Brown, an infectious-disease modeler and senior fellow at the East-West Center. “Right now the number is basically down because most people are sheltering in place, but once we open up, the number of (cases and) close contacts is going to rise very rapidly. The streets are a lot more crowded; people are already effectively starting to lift the lockdown even though they’re technically supposed to be in lockdown.”..

Ige said at his daily COVID-19 briefing Tuesday that the state would be scaling up its public health workforce, but did not provide specific details….

read … Health experts say it’s too soon to reopen

How An Antiquated IT System Failed Thousands Of Hawaii’s Unemployed

CB: … Critics say state officials could have updated a nearly 40-year-old system but never did. Now a long-term fix won’t come until at least next year….

It’s fragile and slow, with technology so obsolete that it predates using a mouse, officials say.

There’s no Microsoft Windows or anything resembling it. The dozens of state workers now assigned to field unemployment calls must instead use a keyboard to move the cursor across a basic, Atari-era screen as they try to help thousands of out-of-work applicants who urgently need payment.

“It’s a very manual process,” Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Director Scott Murakami said last month. “It really is tough with this antiquated mainframe system.”…

The agency largely places the blame on its federal counterparts at the U.S. Department of Labor, who state officials say have failed to provide adequate funding to modernize states’ unemployment IT systems.

(IQ Test: Are you laughing?)

Local open-government advocates, however, point to the broader, years-long neglect by various high-ranking officials to overhaul Hawaii’s state IT systems. Doing so would have made the government more transparent — and vital programs more accessible for residents in need, they say.

At one point, coming out of the Great Recession, several key agencies including DLIR, the Department of Human Services  and the Department of Health considered creating a shared, user-friendly portal that would have allowed residents to apply for multiple benefits and services, as well as to file unemployment claims.

Ultimately, the initiative fell through when it failed to get the needed buy-in across all agencies, those involved say….

read … How An Antiquated IT System Failed Thousands Of Hawaii’s Unemployed

Kim releases revised $585M budget—$14M Property Tax Hike

HTH: … Facing an uncertain economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Harry Kim lopped $40.8 million off the preliminary budget he presented earlier this year.

Kim’s revised budget, released late Tuesday, includes estimated revenues and spending of $585.1 million, 6.5% less than his original proposal and 0.1% lower than the current year. The budget is balanced by cutting some services and by taxing the wealthiest property owners.

(Now you know what it takes to reduce gov’t spending by 0.1% in Hawaii.)

The budget includes no property tax hikes except for an additional tax on residential property — generally second or third homes — valued at $2 million or more. Those property owners will pay a rate of $14.60 per thousand in value on all value more than $2 million, compared to the current tax rate of $11.10 per thousand. The homeowner rate is $6.15….

The budget includes no money from the counties’ share of the state transient accommodations tax — a loss of $19 million — after the administration conferred with the Legislature about its plans. That tax is collected on hotels and short-term rentals.

In addition, the county’s surcharge on the general excise tax is expected to drop by 25% to $37.5 million rather than the anticipated $50 million. And the highway fund, paid by fuel taxes, is expected to take a $5.3 million hit, while the solid waste fund is projected to be $2 million less.

The new tax on $2 million residences is expected to raise $14 million. The budget also relies on an average 3.9% increase, or $12.8 million, in overall property values, meaning property owners are likely to see a bigger tax bite even without an increase in rates….

PBN: Hawaii Island, Kauai April home sales see Covid effect, but prices hold

(Wow.  Hawaii real estate is just gonna keep going up?)

read … Kim releases revised $585M budget

Grubbing for CIP Funds, Homelessness Industry Announces Plan to Expand Homelessness in Hawaii This Summer

KITV: …  A surge in homelessness could hit Hawaii by the end of July.

Hui Aloha -- a group of volunteers that helps the homeless says certain federal funding programs are set to expire.

The group reports a 15% increase in the number of people who could not pay rent last month, and it's expected to get worse in May.

Hui Aloha has a plan to help prevent a surge in homelessness, it includes building an affordable communal living facility.….

(Translation: Fund our project or we will send the homeless into your district.)

read … As federal funding expiration nears, surge in homelessness predicted for the Aloha State

Hawaiian Airlines reports $144M loss in first quarter, warns more economic pain ahead

HNN: … Their first quarter earning report shows a loss of $144 million so far this year.

Compared to last year, revenue is down nearly 15%.

The airline projects that they’ll fly more than 90% below capacity through May compared to 2019….

read … Hawaiian Airlines reports $144M loss in first quarter, warns more economic pain ahead

Coronavirus puts strain on Hawaii Electric Industries earnings

SA: … Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. took some financial hits from the COVID-19 pandemic during the first quarter as it incurred higher bad debt expense at its utility and its bank increased the amount it was setting aside for potential loan losses.

But despite net income falling 26.9% to $33.4 million, HEI President and CEO Connie Lau said today the company is well positioned as it navigates the fallout from the coronavirus.

The company’s utility, Hawaiian Electric, saw its first-quarter net income fall 25.6% to $23.9 million largely due to a $7 million increase in operations and maintenance expenses from the year-earlier quarter. HEI attributed $2 million of that amount to “bad debt expense” due to the economic impact of COVID-19 on its customers.

Lau said the utility, which is pointing toward reaching the state’s goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045, continues to partner with stakeholders to progress clean energy projects and identify opportunities “to rebuild our economy with Hawaii’s green economy goals in mind,” Lau said.

Despite the utility’s alternative energy push, customers have been seeing this year some benefits of lower fuel prices. On Oahu in May, lower fuel costs would reduce a 500 kilowatt-hour per month bill by more than $12 compared to March, HEI said….

HEI’s other subsidiary, American Savings Bank, also felt the impact of the virus and set aside $10.4 million for potential loan losses. That loan-loss provision resulted in the bank’s net income falling 24.4% to $15.8 million in the quarter. Its loans, though, jumped 6.6% to $5.18 billion and deposits rose 2.9% to $6.38 billion….

read … Coronavirus puts strain on Hawaii Electric Industries earnings

Matson profit, revenue drop amid stormy seas of coronavirus pandemic

SA: … Matson, which also serves Alaska, Guam and China, reported that its first-quarter profit fell 70% to $3.8 million from $12.5 million in the same period last year.  Revenue was down 3.5% to $514 million from $532 million ….

read … Matson maintains profit amid stormy seas of coronavirus pandemic

Honolulu Council Can Meet By Video, But Not The Public

CB: … As the Honolulu City Council holds its second full meeting Wednesday under social distancing restrictions, members may teleconference in to offer input on legislation, but island residents cannot.

Members of the public have the option of either submitting written testimony or showing up to Honolulu Hale in person to share their thoughts at a physical distance from others.

Natalie Iwasa, a city government watchdog, criticized the limitation at last month’s meeting.

“I wouldn’t be here if we could have video conference testimony,” she said. “So, I’m wondering why that wasn’t done.”…

read … Honolulu Council Can Meet By Video, But Not The Public

Workers are shocked after money Meadow Gold promised to pay is deposited, then withdrawn from their accounts

KHON: … According to Wayne Kaululaau, Hawaii Teamsters Union Local 996 president, William isn’t the only former Meadow Gold employee this happened to.

“Probably 241 or so members, plus the non-bargaining unit members who work upstairs in the office,” Kaululaau explained.

The union reached out to Meadow Gold and Dean Foods for answers.

“Basically they say there was a mistake done and they didn’t warn anyone, they just took all the money back,” Kaululaau said.

KHON: “Did they say what kind of mistake?”

“No they didn’t say what the mistake was. But that’s how it’s been dealing with them for the past month. They’d say one thing, then they do something else.”….

Related: ‘Insider Trading’ Wrecks Meadow Gold Sale?

read … Workers are shocked after money Meadow Gold promised to pay is deposited, then withdrawn from their accounts

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