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Tuesday, May 12, 2020
May 12, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:41 PM :: 4385 Views

VIDEO: Keli'i Akina Urges Gov. Ige to Continue to Reopen Economy in Balanced Way 

Legislature must rein in state budget

COVID Count: Two New Cases

Michaels Organization Mismanages Affordable Housing Project

DHHL, Aloha United Way Launch Beneficiary Rental Relief Program

HECO Selects 16 Solar Battery Projects--Keeps Locations Secret

Big Island, Kauai are Completely COVID-Free 

HNN: … Hawaii County Civil Defense announced there are zero active cases of COVID-19 on Hawaii Island.

The total number of people who tested positive there was 75, but all patients have been cleared by the state Department of Health….

Kauai also has zero active cases of COVID-19….

read … Civil Defense: No active cases of COVID-19 on Hawaii Island

Hawaii COVID-19 incident commander says ‘rioting’ a possibility if economy not restored

SA: … Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, “incident commander” of Hawaii’s new coronavirus response warned the House Select Committee on COVID-19 today about the possibility of rioting if “we let the economy go the way it’s going.”

“At some point we need to accept risks,” Hara told his fellow members of the committee. “We’ve got to accept the fact that people will become infected” and push Hawaii’s health care system “without exceeding the ICU and ventilator capacity.” ….

“If we let the economy go the way it’s going, I feel there will be significant civil unrest that could lead to civil disobedience and, worst case, civil disturbance and rioting.”… (I’m upping the ante with a big riot bet on reopening.)

KHON: Economist Carl Bonham points out that it still has to be done right because if the economy reopens and is shut down again, there could also be civil unrest. (I’ll see your riot, bet on not reopening, and call.)

Ige: “I do not believe that we would get to civil unrest here in our community”  (Fold.)

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

read … Hawaii COVID-19 incident commander says ‘rioting’ a possibility if economy falters

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….

read … 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.

Which Grant-in-Aid Requests will be Accepted?

MN: … English said that one of the earlier, more difficult decisions that had to be made was cutting monies for grant-in-aid, which is “really a big part of funding that goes to Maui County.” Lawmakers don’t yet know exactly which programs and projects could get the ax….

(Pandering to her anti-everything whackjob base,) Wildberger said. “I support sensible cuts in areas that don’t harm our working class, but I would prefer to implement previously overlooked sources of revenue, such as legalizing and taxing cannabis, taxing REITS (real estate investment trusts), taxing pesticide use, taxing short-term rentals regardless of whether or not they’re legal, and initiating a reasonable per-visitor fee.”…

(Per-visitor fees are unconstitutional. Crandall v. Nevada, 73 U. S. (6 Wall. ) 35 (1868).)

AP: Homeless advocates push for sustained support during virus

read … $1B shortfall to resolve

Legislative Money Raid Pots of Money to Protect Public Employees from Slightest Suffering

AP: … The House Finance Committee and Senate Ways and Means Committee received written testimony on the plans. Lawmakers didn’t accept oral testimony from the public because they closed the Capitol to the public to maintain social distancing.

Lawmakers also proposed allocating funding from the federal coronavirus relief bill to Kauai, Maui and Hawaii counties. Honolulu already received its funding from the bill, as the measure allocated funds directly to cities with populations of more than 500,000 people.

Legislation proposes awarding $80 million to Hawaii County, $67 million to Maui County and $29 million to Kauai County. Honolulu has already received $387 million.

Lawmakers proposed to spend:

— $395 million from the current balance of the state’s rainy day fund.

— $250 million in cash from the Rental House Revolving Fund, which provides low-interest loans to people building affordable housing. The state would replace the money by issuing general obligation bonds.

— $150 million from vacant positions and lapsed, unspent funds from the Department of Education for the current fiscal year ending June 30.

— $136 million from vacancies and lapses in all other departments for the fiscal year ending June 30.

— $71 million from vacancies in all other departments for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

— $25 million from the Mental Health and Substance Abuse fund, which currently has a balance of $50 million. The fund consists of general funds used to pay for services, which are then reimbursed by the U.S. government’s Medicaid program. Hawaii expects to spend $25 million on services, so the state is planning to remove the remaining $25 million.

— $20 million appropriated from the general fund for Aloha Stadium redevelopment, which will be replaced with general obligation bonds.

read … Lawmakers outline plans to make up budget shortfall

As ER Volumes Drop, Hawaii Doctors Worry People Are Delaying Care

HPR: … Hospitals across the state have noticed sharp decreases in the number of patients visiting their emergency rooms since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Our volumes have been at least 50% of what it has been in recent months prior to the COVID situation,” said Toni Higa, Hilo Medical Center ER nurse manager.

Hilo Medical Center is not an outlier. The decline in ER patients is a national trend also seen in other Hawaii facilities.

Doctors and nurses from Pali Momi Medical Center, the Queen's Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, and Maui Memorial Medical Center have all noted a sudden drop in ER volume.

Many health professionals across the state suspect the main reason for the decline in ER visits is patients’ fear of catching the coronavirus at the hospital….

read ... As ER Volumes Drop, Hawaii Doctors Worry People Are Delaying Care

Hilo hospital eyes testing for all admissions

HTH: … Hilo Medical Center is planning to implement additional testing to assure patients and staff will be safe from COVID-19.

Dan Brinkman, East Hawaii Regional CEO, Hawaii Health Systems Corp., said the goal is to start testing every person admitted to the hospital by the middle of this week….

HMC also is working on a surveillance program for its employees, “so that we can tell the community with some scientific certainty that our caregivers are COVID-free, so when patients come to our hospital, they don’t have to worry about catching COVID from our staff.”

COVID-19 tests are now required before elective or pre-planned procedures, and Brinkman said those results can now be turned around in 24 hours….

Many places in the country, including Hawaii, did not get the predicted surge of COVID-19 patients, Brinkman said, but the reality is that the respiratory disease, which was first detected late last year, will remain a threat.

“… ‘Chronic COVID’ is our life now, not only in the hospital, but how we function in the community, how we function at home,” Brinkman said….

read … Hilo hospital eyes testing for all admissions

HGEA Obstruction of Tech Upgrades Costing State Millions of Federal Dollars

SA: …federal dollars — our state’s economic stimulus to recovery — could bypass Hawaii not through incompetence, but because the state’s financial management technology is so antiquated….

… A new financial management system would cost far less than the fines, penalties and additional costs caused by the outdated system’s inability to comply with federal funding and bonding requirements.

The state has a difficult time tracking federal deposits to the grants they received and then tracing those funds to departmental disbursements. If states like ours can’t account for all their spending of federal monies, we could lose 4-7% of these funds, according to federal rules. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but 5% of the $5 billion recently received to help in the pandemic amounts to $250 million. Even before COVID-19, the state was receiving about $3 billion in annual federal support; 5% of that $3 billion translates to $150 million down the drain….

Equally as important, the Legislature and the public have also demanded transparency into how taxpayer dollars are being spent. A new financial management system would allow better visibility into where money is being spent, what financial resources the state currently has, and provide a way of tracking the success of projects by evaluating outcomes against allocated budgets….

Flashback 2010: Audit fuels “clinically psychotic” HGEA effort to strangle tax collection

Flashback 2017: Tech: 'Clinically Psychotic' HGEA Signs Suicide Pact

CB: Hawaii Missed An Opportunity To Fix Its Benefits System Before COVID-19 Struck

read … IT overhaul crucial to handling state funds

‘Clerical error’ overstated state’s coronavirus-related budget shortfall — but by how much?

HNN: … During a press conference on Monday, Governor David Ige acknowledged his budget staff made a financial miscalculation before he proposed 20% pay cuts for all state workers several weeks ago.

“We did make a clerical error in some of the earlier presentations,” Gov. Ige said.

Lawmakers believe the error was not insignificant and amounted to a massive change in the projected budget shortfall, from about $1.5 billion to closer to $1 billion, according to Representative Sylvia Luke.

“They incorrectly inputted (economist) Carl Bonham’s numbers, so Carl Bonham projected 16% revenue loss in the first year and 8% gain in the 2022," Rep. Luke said. "But they mistakenly put a negative instead of a positive, which exacerbated their financial plan.”

Bonham, the head of the University of Hawaii’s Economic Research Organization, is the one who caught the mistake, according to Luke.

House leaders have put together a package to fill the billion dollar gap, which includes tapping the so-called Rainy Day Fund, which is $395 million.

More than $285 million is expected to be left over from this year, due to COVID-19 spending restrictions, and leaving vacant positions unfilled could add another $71 million….

Lawmakers also believe that by borrowing money using bonds, $270 million could come from the Rental Housing Revolving Fund and construction projects.

Some new programs would also likely be cut….

read …‘Clerical error’ overstated state’s coronavirus-related budget shortfall — but by how much?

Lt. Gov. eyes May 25 for ‘medium risk businesses’ to reopen

HNN: … On Monday the Lt. Governor said he believes it’s safe enough to get the the majority of the kamaaina economy back up and running. Things like restaurants, salons and what he calls other “medium risk businesses.”

In the meantime, many shop owners say the state needs to set a date as soon as possible -- so they can be ready when it’s time for customers return.

“We’re an industry of appointments. And appointments require preparation. We need to prepare,” said Adiel Cline….

PDF: Hair Salon & Spa Requirements

read … Lt. Gov. eyes May 25 for ‘medium risk businesses’ to reopen

Maui Malls: A Mixed Reopening

MN: …Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center in Kahului had few mall-goers Monday afternoon….

residents who showed up to malls Monday saw that the majority of stores remained closed at Queen Ka’ahumanu Shopping Center, Maui Mall and The Shops at Wailea.

“I thought there would be more stores open,” said Darrell Ho, who came from Makawao with wife, Alicia, to find two of the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center shops they wanted to visit closed Monday….

Large retailers at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center, such as Sears and Macy’s, along with big brand outlets, such as Victoria’s Secret, American Eagle Outfitters, Vans, Bath & Body Works, Amy’s Hallmark Shop, Champs Sports, Verizon and AT&T stayed shuttered Monday.

The center’s Foam Co., Zumiez, Sprint, Vitamin World, Nakoa Brand, Miko Galleries, Sew Special, Camellia Seed Shop, LensCrafters, Shapers and Ben Franklin were open.

Maui Mall reopened with only a handful of smaller retailers, such as HIC Hawaiian Island Creations and Maui Creations….

The Shops at Wailea reported that only two retailers, Rip Curl and Aloha Hat Co., reopened Monday afternoon….

Kim Ball, owner of Hi-Tech Surf Sports and Shapers Maui, said that business was better than expected when he reopened Monday at all three Hi-Tech stores in Kahului, Kihei and Paia and his Shapers store at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center.

“We’re pleasantly surprised,” Ball said via phone Monday afternoon. “People are stoked to come shop.”

Ball said he had received regular calls during the shutdown from residents wanting surfboards; stand-up boards; skateboards; surf accessories, such as leashes and fins; safety equipment and other activity products.

“With unemployment and no school, there’s never been more people in the water,” he said. “And there are more people skateboarding than before.”…

read …A Mixed Reopening

Hawaii Pacific Health CEO: Need to Reopen Economy

SA: … Even if tourism begins to rebound in July, Carl Bonham, executive director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, estimated that Hawaii will still have an unemployment rate “well into the double digits by the end of the year. That extended period of economic hardship brings with it a whole host of health and social costs that we’re beginning to look at more carefully.”

Raymond Vara, president and CEO of Hawaii Pacific Health, said the committee needs to show the community “some pretty proactive decisions being made in short order.”

“I think I can speak from a public health standpoint when I say we understand the risks, we understand the capacities of the ICU beds and the ventilators,” Vara said. “But I actually think that we’ve crossed the tipping point where the risk is much greater on the long-term impact of our community if we don’t begin to roll out a detailed plan in pretty short order that not only has the different phases of escalation of reopening the community, but also some tentative timelines in which we intend to do so.”…

read … Delay in reopening economy could lead to rioting

Six More visitors sent home; 1 arrest over weekend

MN: … Jennifer Altman, 39, was arrested at about 12:30 p.m. Thursday after investigation of a complaint left on the Maui Visitors Bureau hotline that she had recently returned to Maui and wasn’t abiding by the mandatory quarantine rules…

There were several accounts that Altman had been seen leaving her residence in violation of the quarantine, police said. She was arrested and charged with two counts of violating public health emergency rules and one count of unsworn falsification to officers. She was released after posting $6,000 bail….

Over the weekend, she said six people from Texas and the West Coast agreed to leave because of quarantine violations. Five of the people were in a group traveling together, she said. The other person was traveling with someone who decided to stay, she said….

HNN:   Visitor who broke stay-at-home order fractures leg while hiking in Waipio Valley with ‘Large Group’

read … More visitors sent home; 1 arrest over weekend

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