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Only 25% of Fire-Related Unemployment Claims Approved, DLIR Blames ‘Rampant Fraud’
HNN: … Criminals are targeting Hawaii’s unemployment insurance system while it deals with huge job losses on Maui.
The fraud has meant many jobless fire survivors are still waiting for unemployment checks.
Hawaii Labor Director Jade Butay said Wednesday that less than one-fourth of the disaster unemployment applications have been approved. He said their computer system is antiquated and staff is stretched to identify fraudulent applications.
“We’ve been contacted by FEMA that they’re seeing some, a lot of chatter on the dark web” indicating criminal plans for massive fraud, Butay said.
“Fraud is rampant again,” Butay added. “So we have ways to detect fraud. We’re trying to process them as soon as possible. Our staff is working seven days a week.”…
Butay says of 2,200 applications for federal disaster unemployment assistance, 500 have been approved. There is also a backlog of applications for regular unemployment — with 15,161 filed since the fires with 8,731 currently being paid….
SA: Editorial: Speed up action on jobless claims
read … Hawaii’s unemployment system ‘rampant’ with fraud as it scrambles to help wildfire survivors
Lahaina fire Survivors Most Common reason for being evicted from Hotels--Cooking Indoors with Kerosene
KITV: … In several conversations with Island News over the last month, evacuees have described hotel living as tense, and the growing concern is that when tourists arrive, it'll get worse. An even greater concern is being kicked out.
The most common (!) infraction, from the hotel's perspective, is if a guest tries to cook in their room using kerosene. (Wow.) Hotels and the Red Cross have made it clear that there's a zero tolerance policy for indoor cooking if a unit has no kitchen. Also zero tolerance for drug use. (Uh huh.) It is a complicated situation with strict rules.
Avery Hardin described the situation to Island News from her eyes. Hardin is a single mother of two who evacuated from low-income housing. But her situation is not unique. Thousands of others must check in either daily or every other day per the policy of the hotel and Red Cross agreement.
"Every two days we check in. And I saw one couple (that’s two people) who had not been there to check in every two days come back and he said that he (that’s one person) had been in the hospital. And so all of his stuff had been moved out of his room, his room had been cleaned, and he was not able to check back in that night. And he didn't want to get his stuff because he didn't have a car so it was hard for him to get there and it just looked like very complicated if you don't stay checking in every two days so I make sure to check in,” Hardin said.
Some fire survivors say they are worried that they are being closely monitored to see if they break one of the rules. The concern is that hotels want to free up rooms for tourists….
read … Minor rule infractions can lead to evictions from hotels, Lahaina fire survivors say
Misperceptions, different occupancies hurting Maui hotel workers
SA: … in West Maui, Paulson’s survey forecast only 9.3% visitor occupancy starting Sunday and peaking at 16.8% on Saturday for this week.
However, unlike South Maui hotels, fire evacuees and relief workers from around the country mean they’ll boost total occupancy in West Maui to 60% to 75%, Paulson said
Some 7,800 fire evacuees are staying in over 3,000 hotel rooms, mostly in Kaanapali. But there are virtually no relief workers and few evacuees just north of Kaanapali, such as the resort area that reopened Sunday, Paulson said….
read …Misperceptions, different occupancies hurting Maui hotel workers
Lahaina Teachers Have To ‘Start From Scratch’ As Schools Prepare To Reopen
CB: … Many teachers also question how they can offer stability to their students despite the upheaval in their own lives and a lack of clarity over the number of children returning to campuses and logistical arrangements.
Some have chosen not to return to jobs in the historic Maui town and have sought alternative teaching arrangements. The Department of Education said that, while a majority of educators will be returning to Lahaina, a small number of teachers has sought temporary relocations. The DOE didn’t specify how many teachers will not be returning to the Lahaina campuses next week….
The phased reopening will begin with Lahainaluna High on Monday, followed by Lahaina Intermediate School on Tuesday and Princess Nahienaena Elementary on Wednesday. Students from King Kamehameha III will be able to attend classes in tent-like structures on Princess Nahienaena’s campus until a new temporary facility is built next year….
Livermore predicts that his class size may be much smaller than usual because some students may not return to campus…
Livermore predicts that his class size may be much smaller than usual because some students may not return to campus amid questions about environmental safety and evacuation plans after the devastating fire leveled a large swath of Lahaina, leaving a path of toxic debris and worries about air pollution.
The DOE has said extensive testing of air, drinking water and soil quality has indicated that it is safe for students and staff to return to the three schools, which were not in the scorched area known as the burn zone.
Former King Kamehameha III educator Justin Hughey wasn’t reassured by the tests and recently chose to relocate to Kahului Elementary, despite teaching in Lahaina for almost 17 years. Hughey said he feels unsafe teaching so close to the site of the fires, especially when strong winds or demolition could disturb the ash and soil at the burn zone in the future….
read … Lahaina Teachers Have To ‘Start From Scratch’ As Schools Prepare To Reopen
Maui Council Can Legally Force MECO to Insulate Power Lines
IM: … Maui County has the legal authority to force Maui Electric to insulate lines and poles to prevent wildfires. The basis of this authority is the existence of an obscure law….
The Hawaii Supreme Court issued a ruling in 1991 that stated that the state law preempts county law in utility regulation. “We see in the statutes an overall scheme which reserves to the PUC the power to regulate public utilities, thereby serving as a limitation to the powers of the counties.”
The latest MECO Franchise was signed into law as Act 12 in 1991…
The law assigns practically all regulatory oversight to the public utilities commission. There is one exception.
“The council of the county of Maui is authorized to make and from time to time. to change, amend, or add to reasonable rules regulating, within the island of Maui, the placing of poles and wires, the insulation of wires and apparatus carrying electric current, the excavation of conduits, and the maintenance in good repair of all poles, wires, and apparatus, and generally concerning the manufacture and supply of electricity that may be necessary or proper for the public safety and welfare….”
The Maui Council can introduce a resolution calling for insulation of wires and apparatus in all fire prone areas. MECO would likely testify on the resolution. Councilmembers could ask for details, data, and pass meaningful legislation….
read … Maui Council Can Legally Force MECO to Insulate Power Lines
Blangiardi Builds His War Chest
CB: … Just two months ago Civil Beat reported that Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi had only raised a modest amount of cash for his 2024 reelection. He said at the time that he was concentrating on governance and had made only a handful of appearances at campaign fundraisers. He held only two fundraisers during his first year in office and none in 2022.
But His Honor has picked up the fundraising pace since then, including holding two fundraisers in early September and just last week. Both took place at Blangiardi’s home, and both suggested a contribution of up to $4,000 per donor.
We won’t know who or what gave how much to the mayor until Jan. 31, the next campaign finance disclosure reporting deadline.
So far Blangiardi has not attracted any announced opponents of prominence, but it’s still early, yeah? The candidate filing deadline is not until June 4 and the primary is not until Aug. 10….
read … Blangiardi Builds His War Chest
Rail Changes Planned For Kakaako Mean Fewer Trees, More Buses
CB: … The city’s latest plans for the Honolulu rail line would sacrifice more trees than originally planned in the downtown area and convert a segment of Halekauwila Street into a bus-only traffic corridor, according to a recent city filing.
The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation planned for years to cut seven trees along Halekauwila Street to make way for rail, but recent design changes for the project now call for removal of an additional nine trees along Halekauwila from Richards Street past Punchbowl Street to Cooke Street.
Removal of old shade trees along Dillingham Boulevard to clear the way for rail caused a stir this summer, and the loss of the downtown trees will be equally visible, if not more….
read … Rail Changes Planned For Kakaako Mean Fewer Trees, More Buses
Council to pick Office of Council Services director in Secret
SA: … The Honolulu City Council will hold a special meeting today toward the selection and appointment of a new director for the Office of Council Services.
The Council has formed a Selection Advisory Committee — comprised of Chair Tommy Waters, Vice Chair Esther Kia‘aina and Council member Calvin Say — that is expected to assist in appointing a new person to that directorship role, which lasts for a six-year term.
The position directs the day-to-day executive management of the OCS, which aids the Council in crafting city legislation and conduct research as part of the Council’s normal legislative process….
In July, Waters introduced a resolution to form the selection committee to find a successor for another six-year term. The deadline to submit resumes for that job was Sept. 18. The director’s post is expected to be filled by January, the city says.
Prior to the meeting, the advisory committee provided few details regarding the selection process or the number of candidates who’ve applied for the OCS director position.
“Because it is a personnel matter, we can’t say anything at this time,” Say told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser by phone (so we couldn’t see him grinning broadly). “That’s the
problem (opportunity) that we have … on a personnel matter, it’s all confidential.”
(IQ Test: How hard are you laughing?)
Kenny Amazaki, the Council administrative services officer, also confirmed the selection process for this public official could not be publicly disclosed.
Unfortunately, we (have arranged things so that we) are unable to share information regarding personnel-related matters,” Amazaki told the Star-Advertiser via email. “ Out of fairness to all candidates, (to keep the public in the dark) if Council members opt to discuss their expectations for a candidate, it is likely to occur during the committee meeting.” (Reality inducing comments added in parenthesis by editor.)
Council staffers also confirmed the advisory committee’s deliberations will mostly be held in a nonpublic executive session….
read … Council to pick Office of Council Services director
Lahaina Fire News: