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Wednesday, May 13, 2020
May 13, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:36 PM :: 1525 Views

Forcing United Public Workers to Enter New Era

Executive Pay Hikes on Senate WAM Agenda Wednesday

We can’t turn back the clock, and for some policies we don’t want to

COVID Count: Only one new case out of 433 tests

COVID Count: 3 new cases out of 391 tests

States with the Most Vulnerable Populations to Coronavirus--Hawaii 33rd

Petitioner Needs Counsel For Supreme Court Oral Arguments In Due Process Case

Will Bankrupt Sandwich Isles Provide Sufficient Service to DHHL?

Survey: Hawaii Solar installers slowed by COVID-19

CARES Money: Honolulu to Give $10K to Small Businesses

Legislators Grab CARES Funds Earmarked for Unemployment to Pay HGEA, UPW—Businesses will be taxed to fund illegal scheme

SA: …Members of the Finance Committee met to figure out how $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act funding will be distributed across the islands in the fight against the new coronavirus.

The funding proposal is outlined in the current version of SB 75. About half of the money — $555.6 million — is earmarked to go into the state’s so-called rainy day fund but must be spent by the end of the year….

(Translation: Legislators are putting the CARES Act funds into the Rainy Day account with the intention of using the federal money to pay non-emergency public employees, but this is currently illegal. Hawaii Legislators are hoping for a Dem sweep in November followed by US Congress changing CARES Act rules.  Meanwhile Hawaii will have to borrow federal dollars for unemployment – these will then have to be paid back in the form of higher UComp taxes by businesses.)

Meanwhile … Hara on Tuesday repeated his concerns that riots could erupt if Hawaii’s economy continues to stutter.

“We’ve got to accept risks to open the economy,” Hara said. “The longer we wait, the harder it will be for the economy to recover.”….

read … Color-coded state recovery plan to be unveiled

Legislators: Raid Unemployment Funds to Avoid any cuts to Public Employees

CB: … Ige is generally supportive of the Legislature handling oversight of federal relief funds.

“I felt it was important to engage the legislative process to facilitate additional discussion and transparency,” Ige said at a press conference.

But it’s the finer points that the lawmakers and Ige still need to come to terms over.

Lawmakers want the leftover from those funds, estimated at about $553 million, to go back to the state’s rainy day fund, which they are tapping to shore up the budget. (They hope the US Congress will let them use this for payroll.) Meanwhile, Ige wants that money to go toward the state’s unemployment payments, which are rapidly being drained because of the high number of unemployment claims.

As to administration concerns about accessing CARES money that will go to the state’s rainy day fund, Rep. Sylvia Luke, chair of the House Finance Committee, said the problem could be fixed by suspending any laws that would restrict that access.

Her committee’s agenda was centered on two bills: Senate Bill 75, which outlines how to spend the federal relief money, and Senate Bill 3139, a companion to the budget bill that would free up some $295 million….

ead … Gov. David Ige is not on board with much of the Legislature’s fiscal plan including how to spend federal bailout money and public worker pay cuts.

Suicide uptick raises concern

TGI: … The four suicides involve young men in their 20s or 30s, and the deaths, in all cases, were by hanging….The first incident occurred May 2 and the most recent was last Friday, Raybuck said….

inquiries suggest a possible link to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the crisis may be the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for the four deceased young men.

“One of the things we have seen is there is a nexus between these cases and drug use,” he said. “When you take substance abuse or drug addiction, which tend to create relationship issues, and financial problems, you come into the situation where we are today with COVID.”….

The recent spate of suicides also appears consistent with findings of a survey released in late April by the state Department of Health. It was based on in-person interviews with about 190 Kaua‘i households conducted by a team of volunteers on April 22 and 23. The data showed that:

• More than a third of Kaua‘i households reported they were very or somewhat concerned about being able to make the next month’s mortgage or rent payments, and 29% were concerned about paying for basic utilities;

• Nearly 57% of the households included at least one member who had lost his or her job or income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic;

• Nearly 40% of households were experiencing high or moderate amounts of stress, and nearly 60% worried about contracting the coronavirus….

MN: Man talked down from utility pole “…“appeared upset, yelling and rambling about various topics, such as the airport being closed and legal injustice,”

CB: Suicides Of 4 Young Men In A Week Raise Alarm On Kauai

read … Suicide uptick raises concern

COVID Blows $100M Hole in Rail Budget—Launch Date Postponed

CB: … Honolulu rail is on course to receive about $100 million less in funding toward its completion in the coming year than planned thanks to COVID-19, according to the project’s top financial officer.

Meanwhile, the transit line’s west side passenger service to Aloha Stadium, once touted to launch as early as December, has now been pushed back to March. The pandemic has disrupted getting the needed materials to Oahu, but it’s more severely disrupted getting engineers and their technical expertise to the island, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation officials say.

Furthermore, the public-private partnership that’s expected to finally get the full 20-mile, 21-station line all the way to Ala Moana Center appears to have been pushed back about another month..….

Panos: Frycztaki provided a lie instead of an applicable reason for the delay

SA: Oahu rail’s interim opening is pushed back to March

read … City Council Grows Anxious As Rail’s COVID-19 Problems Deepen

Rate Commission moves out massive Bus fare hikes due to Rail Opening

SA: … Generally, single rides for most will cost $3, a quarter more than now, while monthly and annual passes would be higher as well.

Fares for seniors (65 and older), historically the category that generates the most disagreement, would see monthly passes rise the most (to $20 from $6 a month), while the annual pass would go to $45 from $35….

The plan calls for a single, intermodal rate that allows passengers to move easily between taking TheBus and the upcoming rail line, the first segment of which is now slated to begin operations in March….

read … Rate Commission moves out fare plan for bus and rail

Legislators Raid Aloha Stadium Project for $20M

SA: … Legislators said on Monday that recalling the $20 million in cash was one area to help stabilize the current budget so they could avoid public-worker pay cuts in the wake of the COVID-19 impact on revenue.

Last year the Legislature appropriated up to $350 million in a combination of $20 million cash, $150 million in general obligation bonds and $180 million in revenue bonds toward the P3 public-private partnership. The eventual private sector partner will finance some of the construction costs as well as maintain the facility to account for the total cost of the facility.

“Because the stadium build-out has not used the $20 million in cash that we gave them, we’re swapping out the cash with bond funds, which will be reflected in the capital improvement bill. So, it is basically a dollar-for-dollar trade and not shorting the project,” Rep. Sylvia Luke (D, Makiki, Nuuanu) responded in a text….

read … Raid

Honolulu Budget Down 6%—State Losing 12%

CB: … As Honolulu faces revenue losses amid COVID-19, City Council members on Tuesday axed over $130 million from the proposed budget, including vacant positions, planned raises and transportation costs such as an $18 million cut from the rail project.

For now, the city expects to be able to manage the pain. Honolulu has not laid off or furloughed city workers, and officials are not proposing tax hikes. Budget Director Nelson Koyanagi said $72 million in TheBus and HandiVan cuts should be reimbursed by federal aid funds, and he doesn’t anticipate a reduction of transportation services….

Major sources of revenue for the city have dried up. Koyanagi said the administration is expecting the following losses totaling about $133 million:

  • $78.1 million in real property taxes.
  • $22.7 million in transient accommodations tax.
  • $9.2 million in motor vehicle weight taxes.
  • $7.8 million in fuel taxes.
  • $4.3 million in special events (e.g. Blaisdell Center, Waikiki Shell).
  • $3.1 million in golf revenue.
  • $2.7 million in zoo revenue.
  • $2.2 million in building permits.
  • $1.4 million in TheBus and HandiVan fares.
  • $750,000 in parking fees.
  • $740,000 in motor vehicle annual fees.
  • $480,000 in refuse pickup.

Honolulu usually gets about $45 million per year in transient accommodations tax, Koyanagi said. The current budget assumes the city will get half of that, but Koyanagi said there’s a “good chance” the state will give the city nothing at all.

Even if that were the case and the city’s losses totaled $177 million, it would only amount to roughly 6% of Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s original proposal. Hawaii lawmakers, on the other hand, are faced with filling a $1 billion hole in an $8 billion state budget.

read … Pandemic Forces Honolulu Council To Slash Budget

PGV reboot delayed waiting for PUC to Approve Rebuild of Transmission Lines

WHT: .. PGV officials had hoped the plant would be operational by the end of 2019 and could sell electricity early in 2020, but the plant experienced some equipment problems when attempting to come back online, and the startup was postponed.

In an earnings call Monday, Ormat CEO Isaac Angel said permits required for the construction and operation of the substation have been received.

Two production wells also have been drilled. While one was blocked after its flow test, Angel said the second is ready to be connected to the power plant and is expected to enable partial production as soon as transmission lines are rebuilt.

Hawaiian Electric is seeking to reconstruct two segments of its 69-kilovolt overhead transmission lines that are approximately 1 mile long and 1.5 miles long, according to the application filed with the state Public Utilities Commission in June 2019.

The matter is still before the PUC.

Additional field recovery work, like cleaning out existing wells and drilling new ones, is continuing, Angel said.

“Currently, we expect (a) gradual increase of production to 29 megawatts by the end of the year, assuming all permits are received, transmission network upgrade is completed and field recovery (is) successfully achieved.”….

read … PGV reboot delayed again

Child Abuse Reports Down During COVID

CB: … In April 2019, 41 reports came from educational personnel, according to Child Welfare Services data. That month, schools constituted the second biggest source of reports, behind law enforcement.  This April, the number dropped to zero…Overall, the number of reports to CWS dropped from 232 last April to 179 reports during April this year….

In the same period last year, for instance, four reports came in from friends and neighbors, compared to 19 in March and April this year. Meanwhile, 44 reports this year were registered by “other relatives,” an increase from 29 during the same time last year….

The department recently received an order of 150 face shields and other personal protective gear for employees still working in the field.

In general, to limit contact and avoid the transmission of COVID-19, workers at CWS have been calling ahead to see if anyone in the household is sick.

DHS spokeswoman Amanda Stevens said reports that pose an immediate safety threat are still investigated in person. It’s the routine visits when “there isn’t any concern for the child” that have gone virtual, she said….

read … School’s Out And With It A Reliable System For Flagging Abuse

Doctors worry people are avoiding hospitals despite serious medical needs

HNN: … They say people are so afraid of contracting COVID-19, many are now ignoring life-threatening illnesses.

“Heart attacks, diabetes, strokes have been waiting three days or longer to seek care,” said Dr. Vijak Ayasanonda, Emergency Room Doctor at Maui Memorial Medical Center….

Maui Memorial Medical Center says there has been a 50 to 60-percent decline in Emergency Room patients compared to this same time last year.

Stroke patients are down 43 percent. Cardiac patients are down 31 percent.

"I’m seeing people coming in with chest pains for five days and you do the EKG and you do the lab tests and you’re like oh my gosh, you’ve had a heart attack for the last five days, I’m amazed that you’re here,” said Dr. Ayasanonda.

Dr. Ayasanonda said those are the ones who seek help.

"There have been a lot of people who’ve had terrible things happen, the ambulance have gone out but they haven’t brought them in because it’s too late,” he said.

Hawai’i Pacific Health says their medical centers are seeing similar declines. Doctors across the country report the same trend….

CB: Patients with a terminal illness may not have the luxury of waiting until things go back to normal to enter hospice care.

read … Doctors worry people are avoiding hospitals despite serious medical needs

Plastic Shield for Bus Drivers May Take All Year

KHON: … KHON2 was told the city is looking at using money from the CARES Act to place something like plexiglass barriers to protect drivers in response to the assaults and COVID-19.

But the demand is high.

They hope to have some type of barrier up by the end of the year.

“We have a demo unit coming our way,” Nouchi said. “We’re going to test for installation and for fit. The plexiglass barrier has become the hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes of the transit industry. Everybody is trying to now retro fit all of their buses with these.”…

read … City looking at changes on TheBus in response to assaults against drivers, COVID-19

Harry Kim to Reopen Restaurants ‘Maybe Later this Month’

KHON: … He adds that he does see the possibility of moving to another level and opening some of the moderate risk businesses like hair salons, and allowing dining in at restaurants, probably later this month. But those businesses will have to be modified to comply with social distancing, by allowing fewer customers, everyone wearing masks, and possibly some type of barriers for protection….

CB: How To Reopen Hawaii Safely

read … Hawaii County mayor says don’t take additional risks when reopening the economy

With Quick Testing, Tourism Could Reopen in Late June

HNN: … Hawaii could begin to reopen the state for tourism as early as this summer, CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus said.

“I think what’s going to happen is by the end of June, we’re going to start to see visitors in places, but it’s going to be done in a very thoughtful fashion,” Agus said, in an interview Tuesday on HNN.

Agus said Hawaii is on track to reopen to visitors as long as it’s done in a “logical, data-driven” fashion, which would require steps like antigen testing, a diagnostic test recently developed for coronavirus.

“Enabling people to get quick tests at home before they board a plane is very powerful,” Agus said, adding that planes are usually equipped with HEPA filters that recirculate the air, making air travel safer than one might think.

“I do think you can have testing at a location and then go to Hawaii in a very safe data-driven fashion. I think it's going to be possible.”…

Related: A Low-Risk Plan to Re-Start Hawaii Tourism Now

read … Medical expert weighs in on when state might reboot tourism (and how)

Report: Vacation Rentals Down 15% in March

SA: …on Monday at least 14% of the visitors who filled out the optional backside of the Hawaii Agriculture Declaration Form said they planned to stay at a vacation rental accommodation, ranging from a private or shared room to a whole unit.

Moreover, on Tuesday a new report came out showing that Hawaii’s vacation rental market was affected by reduced travel demand from COVID-19 fears and tourism lockdowns in March, but not nearly to the same degree as hotels, which are considered essential businesses.

In March the monthly supply of statewide vacation rentals was 871,500 unit nights, and monthly demand was 557,400 unit nights, resulting in an average monthly unit occupancy of 64%, a nearly 15-percentage- point drop from March 2019. In comparison, Hawaii’s hotel occupancy was nearly 45% in March 2020, a more than 34-percentage-point drop from the year-earlier period….

Monday brought hundreds of visitors to Hawaii, some to stay in illegal vacation rentals

read … Vacation rentals use loopholes to skirt quarantine

State aims to work with University of Hawaii to train contact tracers

SA: … The state Department of Health today asked lawmakers to appropriate about $2.5 million to fund a program at the University of Hawaii that would train workers to track contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

State epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said the department hopes this training will begin in the next month.

She said the goal was to have the program train a total of 200 workers in two phases. With the help of a cellphone app that people can use to report their health condition to contact tracers and the more traditional method of making phone calls, each worker would be capable of tracking about 20 people per day. Altogether they would be able to track 4,000 people….

read … State aims to work with University of Hawaii to train contact tracers

Corporation counsel responds to ACLU letter criticizing county’s decision to remove homeless camp

HTH: … “‘Enforcement’ is such a broad term,” Kamelamela told the Tribune-Herald on Tuesday. “I don’t know what they’re requesting we do.”

Kamelamela said it doesn’t make sense to freeze all homeless-related law enforcement actions, explaining that, for example, private businesses on Kamehameha Avenue frequently seek police assistance to remove homeless squatters from their storefronts in order to sanitize the area.

The results of such actions are invariably temporary and typically do not lead to charges being filed, and Kamelamela questioned whether that kind of “enforcement action” would also be precluded by the ACLU’s demand.

“If a private landowner asks the police for help in removing someone from their property, does it make sense for the police not to take action?” Kamelamela asked….

HTH: ACLU confused by county’s defense for removal of Hilo homeless camp

read … Corporation counsel responds to ACLU letter criticizing county’s decision to remove homeless camp

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