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Wednesday, November 25, 2020
November 25, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:28 PM :: 2477 Views

Expedia, Airbnb, Caldwell Announce Short-term Rental Agreement

Ige issues 16th COVID-19 emergency proclamation

DHHL Breaks Ground on Rent-to-Own Project

UH, FEMA Study Public Attitudes Towards COVID Emergency Measures

Kai Kahele vows to oppose BDS, fight anti-Semitism

Rail’s Interim Service Could Be Pushed Back A Year Amid COVID, Testing Woes

CB: … Officials had hoped to deliver rail’s first 10 miles for service this fall. Now they don’t expect that to happen until late 2021….

The possibility came as the city faces a COVID-19 related budget shortfall of around $400 million, including a shortfall of $40 million to $50 million for transit service, Nouchi said Tuesday. Postponing rail’s interim opening could help “save a bunch of money” and preserve existing service on TheBus and Handi-Van.

It also followed the disclosure last week by local rail officials that the intensive 90-day trial run required for the driverless trains before they can carry passengers is facing at least an additional four-month delay.

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation officials said Thursday that Hitachi Rail, which is building those trains and the transit line’s communications systems, informed them of the setbacks the previous week, and that HART didn’t consider the company to be as “forthcoming” as it should have been on the matter….

read … Rail’s Interim Service Could Be Pushed Back A Year Amid COVID, Testing Woes

Businesses will have to pay three times more in unemployment tax in 2021

KHON: … “The unemployment tax is fully funded by employers,” Perreira-Eustaquio explained. “In the state, employers are the ones who pay into the the trust fund.”

Due to the high unemployment rate, she said the fund was depleted, and the state now owes millions.

“We borrowed about $695 million from the federal government,” Perreira-Eustaquio said. “By the end of December, we estimate to borrow about one to $1.2 billion in money to cover payments to individuals who are unemployed, here in Hawaii.”

Because of this, unemployment taxes automatically go up, and employers will have to pay higher unemployment taxes come 2021.

“Schedule C determines that the employer assessment is at an average is about $600,” Representative Sylvia Luke said. “Right now, because the Unemployment Trust Fund is depleted, we are at schedule H, which is basically the highest. Schedule H is at an average of about $1,900 (in taxes). So as you can see, it’s a substantial increase. And that’s the average. The maximum amount that can go under schedule H is $3,400.”

Kelii Akina, The Grassroot Institute Hawaii President Kelii Akina said the increase will hurt small businesses.

“A restaurant, or perhaps a small retail shop, with 10 employees, they’re paying now about $5,500 to $6,000 a year for their unemployment tax,” Akina said. “Next year, they’re going to pay automatically at least $18,000. That’s a three fold increase.”

It could have drastic consequences.

“Businesses are going to resist hiring people that’s going to result in a lot more unemployment,” said Akina.

It could also force more businesses to close for good.

There are two ways to solve the problem. The first, put unused CARES Act Funds into the unemployment fund. The second is for the legislature to step in.

“We are planning to provide the governor with a bill to include in his package,” Perreira-Eustaquio said. “Right now, we are planning for that bill to bring the tax rate down from our highest tax schedule right now, which is H. That’s what would be statutorily set if we went by statute regulations. And we bring it down to F for both 2021 and 2022.”…

Background: State unemployment tax slated to automatically triple in 2021

read … Businesses will have to pay three times more in unemployment tax in 2021

Some travelers frustrated with having to show negative COVID-19 test prior to departure

KHON: … Michelle Carpenter plans to fly to Maui with her service dog on Thanksgiving, but she’s worried that her test won’t make it before her departure, especially since her flight time changed.

“I’m a little bit panicked about (my test) not going to be back in time and his is, and then trying to find out if, you know, just if something happens and we don’t get them back,” said Carpenter. “We have to) find out if we can get another rapid test somewhere in Oakland at the airport. That’s been challenging to navigate.”

Carpenter said it has been difficult just finding a trusted partner in her area. She said some labs can’t even guarantee that the test results will come in on time.

“Like in our city there is no rapid testing that’s even on,” said Carpenter. “It’s hard to tell what is even an accepted lab. I think that has been the very frustrating part of it.”

Some airlines are allowing passengers to change their flight to a later time and are waiving change fees. Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Air are both offering this. Hawaiian Airlines is also offering the option of credit for future travel.

Alaska Air tells KHON2 they had to rebook a few people at the airport before their departure Tuesday, but for the most part, people who boarded did have their negative COVID-19 test in-hand.

The Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association (HLTA) said some hotels are also offering something similar, allowing people to change their reservations without a penalty….

KITV: "I just wasted $119 per person not to mention now I'm forced to do a quarantine for 14 days,"

HNN: Getting results in time for your flight isn’t only a challenge in the mainland, but in Hawaii as well.

read … Some travelers frustrated with having to show negative COVID-19 test prior to departure

Caldwell proposes additional testing changes for trans-Pacific travelers

HNN:… Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell will ask the governor for a workaround to allow trans-Pacific travelers still awaiting travelers to avoid quarantine.

Under Caldwell’s plan, a traveler without a negative COVID-19 test result would take one immediately after landing at Honolulu’s airport.

“They download the tracing app, they agree to come back in four days to get a second test and they quarantine in between,” Caldwell said.

Those initial results at the airport take three hours to return.

If the second test comes back negative, the person is free to move about ― cutting quarantine time from 14 days to the four days in between the two tests.

Health and business leaders don’t want two tests, and instead suggested travelers without results could use the city’s airport lab and be cleared from quarantine that day when the results comes in.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said the state has seen encouraging numbers from both pre-travel test studies and post arrival studies. About 6% out of the thousands of travelers who arrived through the program did not have results in hand. Of those, 44 learned that they had the virus after landing….

read … Honolulu’s mayor proposes additional testing changes for trans-Pacific travelers

13% of travelers to Hawaii tested positive for COVID-19 in November

SA: … The percentage of travel-related COVID-19 cases in Hawaii have more than quadrupled since the state began allowing nonessential travel in October, according to new data released by the state Department of Health.

State health officials said Tuesday that 13% of travelers to Hawaii tested positive for COVID-19 in November, up from 3% in October, even though the total number of COVID-19 cases in general has fallen to 2,131 from 2,600.

Health officials reported 61 new coronavirus infections statewide Tuesday, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 17,393 cases. No new deaths were recorded, and the state’s coronavirus death toll remains at 233, not including the first on-­island Kauai death, which was reported Monday. Of Hawaii’s total infection count, 1,313 cases are considered active….

The state reported that travel-associated infections rose to 23% on Hawaii island, up from 3%, and 44% in Maui County from 6%. In Honolulu, travel-related cases climbed to 10% from 4%.

Kauai, however, has seen a larger spike in travel-related coronavirus infections since the start of the pre-travel testing program. The island had only reported 61 cases between March 1 and Oct. 14.

But Kauai’s total number of COVID-cases has jumped to 36 in November from six in October, when there was zero community spread. Travel-related cases represent 85% of new infections this month….

Oct 25, 2020: Hawai'i Tourism Reopening Strategy: Make COVID Positivity Numbers Look Good

AP: Pandemic gave locals fleeting taste of a tourist-free Hawaii

read … Percentage of Hawaii travelers testing positive up fourfold in November

Hawaii business owners advocate for less restrictive Covid-19 guidelines

PBN: … "Businesses were ordered to shut down for the benefit of our community," Bill Lawson, owner of the Law Offices of William H. Lawson said. "They were largely deemed nonessential and they were ordered to close, even though larger diversified competitors were allowed to remain open. The financial impact of virtually no income, but ongoing expenses, has devastated many of our small businesses."

This group of Isle businesses advocating for decreased restrictions includes; 10 restaurants, 150 tattoo shops, 25 dance/yoga studios, 25 fitness businesses, 10 massage studios, 500 hair and nail salons, 50 wedding related businesses, 10 short-term rentals, and 150 general small retailers forced to close down. A separate group, the Aloha Freedom Coalition — which has a similar mission, has approximately 75 different businesses involved….

read … Hawaii business owners advocate for less restrictive Covid-19 guidelines

Officer who cited US surgeon general under investigation for overtime abuse

HNN: … An over-zealous police officer could be a major factor in the case against U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams.

That’s according to the attorney for Adams, who says he was shocked to hear the officer who cited him for being in a closed park back in August is now among those who are being investigated for overtime abuse.

An audit recently found the violations, prompting HPD to suspend the COVID-19 rules enforcement team.

Michael Green, Adams’ attorney, is hoping this development will convince prosecutors to drop the case.

“When you have allegations of overtime abuse it goes hand in hand with filing false reports. It’s also analogous to stealing salaries and money you are not entitled to,” Green said. “Yeah I was shocked but the question is, if I had to go to trial, would a court allow that into evidence?” ….

read … Officer who cited US surgeon general under investigation for overtime abuse

Two potential solutions to address Hawaii’s physician workforce shortage

SoR: … The Hawaii Physician Shortage Crisis Task Force is a group of physicians working to address the lack of doctors in the state. They say the physician shortage is primarily driven by economics. A Wallet Hub report from 2020, which included factors such as average salary and cost of living in its calculations, ranks Hawaii #42 in the nation for practicing medicine.

One solution to improve the economic attractiveness of working in the state, reasons Wade, is to increase Medicare payments in Hawaii. As it stands now, Hawaii’s Geographic Price Cost Indices (GPCI), which is a significant factor in determining how much a physician is paid to administer a service under Medicare, is 1.006. This is just above the legal minimum of 1.0….

Hawaii has the highest cost of living in the nation, yet its providers are paid similarly to the rate paid to Ohio physicians….Wade draws a comparison to Alaska, where the federal government increased its GPCI to 1.5…

Hawaii’s congressional delegation has also pushed for an increase in Hawaii’s Medicare payments. In a 2019 letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, the delegation called for an update to Hawaii’s Medicare physician reimbursement rate to reflect the cost of practicing in Hawaii….

To attract and maintain physicians in the state, Wade also advocates for a General Excise Tax (GET) exemption for physician medical practices. The GET tax is currently levied on gross receipts of all businesses, including private medical practices.

Last year, a bill proposing a GET tax exemption on medical services provided by physicians and APRNs made progress in the legislature. But after the legislature closed due to the pandemic, the bill failed to pass. Wade recommends stakeholders push hard on a similar bill during the upcoming 2021 session….

read … Two potential solutions to address Hawaii’s physician workforce shortage

Honolulu Needs to deal with “service-resistant” homeless

SA Editorial: … Blangiardi, who ranks tackling homelessness as a critical priority, said: “I want to take a big bite out of homelessness … especially our chronic homeless.”….

However, as Blangiardi puts together his game plan, it’s clear that a thorough understanding of the city’s long-standing problem and viable solutions — now further complicated by economic tremors tied to COVID-19 — requires a steep learning curve.

“Roadmap to Recovery,” Blangiardi’s rough outline for his first 90 days in office amid pandemic challenges, calls for elimination of the city’s “use of so-called compassionate disruption, especially during COVID-19,” adding that tactic “merely moves homeless individuals from park to park and street to street.”

It’s true that scenes of scattering and relocation can make it harder for outreach workers to serve people. It’s also true that this disruption element is not in and of itself a homelessness solution. But in the absence of a better alternative, the city’s “enforcement actions,” or sweeps, are useful in fending off potential public health and safety threats in parks, business districts and other areas.

The Roadmap also calls for convening city, state and nonprofit stakeholders to forge a “data-intensive approach to coordinated outreach services, expanded medical care, and additional shelter/housing options.” But the devil will be in the details — and until successful strategies actually emerge, the city should simultaneously continue to refine compassionate disruption….

Among the programs now mitigating virus spread is the POST (Provisional Outdoor Screening and Triage), which offers shelter in tents, where homeless individuals can self-quarantine….

a push for more permanent housing, along with a reliable system of care for the “service-resistant” homeless grappling with addiction and mental health issues, is in order….

KHON: Mayor-elect sweats the small and big stuff on basic city services

read … New mayor needs homeless options

Mass testing reveals 46 new COVID cases among Waiawa prison inmates

HNN: … Officials said on Tuesday there were 46 new positive cases out of 125 tests. The new infections brings the total number of cases there to 149 with one inmate hospitalized.

This is the second largest cluster of cases within a state-run prison facility right behind the outbreak at OCCC.

Ten staff members have also tested positive …

read …  Mass testing reveals 46 new COVID cases among Waiawa prison inmates

Read Katherine Kealoha’s handwritten letter to a judge ahead of her sentencing

HNN: … In a handwritten letter to a federal judge ahead of her sentencing Monday, Katherine Kealoha asked for “mercy” for her husband ― ex-Police Chief Louis Kealoha ― and two officers also convicted following a massive public corruption trial.

In the five-page letter, Kealoha says she has been locked in her cell for 23 hours a day since April because of the pandemic and calls her time behind bars “my cross to bear.”

The former deputy city prosecutor also discussed her abuse of prescription drugs….

AP: Ex-prosecutor Katherine Kealoha writes of drug addiction in sentencing letter

read … Read Katherine Kealoha’s handwritten letter to a judge ahead of her sentencing

$400M Shortfall?  Make Seniors and Disabled Pay!

KHON: … The measure introduced by Honolulu City Council chair Ann Kobayashi would increase single rides for adults to $3.

Monthly passes to $80 and annual passes to $880.

For children ages 6 to 17, single rides would go up to $1.50, monthly passes to 40-dollars and annual passes to $440….

Seniors, people with disabilities, and medicare cardholders would see their prices go up to $1.25, $20, and $45 respectively.

During the measure’s hearing before the city council on Nov. 24, Department of Transportation Services deputy director Jon Nouchi revealed the department is facing a $400 million shortfall….

(IDEA: Don’t run rail in 2021.  Save $100M.)

read … Honolulu city council reviews increasing TheBus fare

Kahuku Community Association files appeal over Na Pua Makani wind turbines

KHON: … Keep the North Shore Country and Kahuku Community Association have filed an appeal over the City’s approval of the location of Na Pua Makani wind turbines….

“The decision to allow turbines to be illegally built within the setback area is terrible. Worse, there was no reasonable way for the public to know such a decision was even being considered. This shows a serious lack of concern for community voices,” said President of Keep the North Shore Country, Gil Riviere said.

After briefings are completed, oral arguments will likely be scheduled in the First Circuit

read … Kahuku Community Association files appeal over Na Pua Makani wind turbines

Complaints delay Hawaii’s vote certification

SA: … The certification of Hawaii’s election results is being delayed by three complaints: one from a woman who said she was running for president of the United States, another from a candidate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and from a slate of candidates under the banner Klean House Hawaii that included a long-shot candidate for Honolulu mayor.

Two of the complaints were filed just before Monday’s deadline to challenge the election results, and now all three cases are before the Hawaii Supreme Court….

Krishna F. Jayaram, spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office, said in an email, “Elections are central to our democracy and our department will be responding on behalf of the Office of Elections with all due speed.”…

Related: Copy Trump Playbook: Keoni Souza Asks Hawaii Supreme Court For Recount In OHA Race

read … Complaints delay Hawaii’s vote certification

Proud Boys Voter Intimidation in Hawaii?

SA: … Disturbing incidents of voter intimidation occurred throughout Hawaii on Election Day.

Arguably, the most egregious occurred at Honolulu Hale, where a group of people carrying a Proud Boys flag and a large stick approached the long line of voters, shouting, intimidating and threatening physical violence, according to Common Cause Hawaii election protection volunteers. The group left before police or staff arrived.

These reported actions are not just reprehensible, they are unacceptable in a democracy. This can also be considered as terroristic threatening, a felony, as defined in Hawaii Revised Statutes § 707-716(b)….

read … Intimidation

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