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Saturday, May 9, 2020
OHA to Ige: Bypass Legislature and Give Us $21,287,134
By Andrew Walden @ 4:11 AM :: 4464 Views :: Ethics, OHA, COVID-19

by Andrew Walden

COVID has gutted Hawaii’s tourism industry.

Public employees have been threatened with 20% pay reduction.

The Legislature is about to convene with $1B of budget cuts on the agenda.

And what does OHA have to say about this? 

OHA wants Gov Ige to do an end-run around the Legislature to give them $21,287,134. 

This is over six times the $3.4M OHA purports to be spending on COVID relief—most of which is a single cash transfer to the politically connected Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

A copy of an OHA demand letter to Governor Ige, dated April 24, 2020, arrived in the Hawai’i Free Press mailbox this week. 

Here is an excerpt:

As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to mount, we write you to respectfully request your assistance in facilitating the release of funds held in the Overpayment Collections to OHA – Ceded Lands trust holding account for use by OHA to address the critical needs of our Native Hawaiian beneficiaries, who are especially vulnerable to the devastating effects of this coronavirus pandemic.

…According to mandated reporting by the Department of Budget and Finance, the Ceded Lands Collections trust holding account held $21,287,134 at the end of FY19….. OHA's research also shows that Native Hawaiians are owed past due payments resulting from a shortage in annual Public Land Trust transfers since 2012, that will amount to $159 million at the end of this fiscal year….
While we understand that the broader discussion about revisiting the interim annual amount of the Public Land Trust for Native Hawaiians should be delayed until a more appropriate time, we ask that your administration consider the immediate transfer of all funds held in the Ceded Lands Collections trust holding account to OHA….

Contrary to OHA’s assertion, the Hawaii Supreme Court, in 2001, ruled that Ceded Lands revenue distribution is a political question, not a constitutional mandate to give OHA 20%.  OHA is ‘owed’ a set amount of $15.1M a year (or less if Ceded Lands revenues are less) under the formula established by Act 178 of 2006.  But with a declaration of Health Emergency, the Governor has the power to bypass the Legislature to fight the virus.  All Ige has to do is believe that giving politically connected OHA insiders more than the $15.1M they have already received this year somehow helps COVID victims.

OHA’s letter to Ige was timed to coincide with a media campaign designed to make Hawaiians appear as exceptional COVID victims.

The Hawaii Department of Health COVID ‘Race Dashboard’ shows that as of May 7, 2020, ‘Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander’ make up 13% of Hawaii COVID cases but only 10% of the state’s population.  According to the State of Hawaii Databook, ‘Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander’ population is 10% but if hapas are counted the percentage is 26%.  The extra 3%, just 18 cases, is apparently worth $21,287,134 to OHA.  That’s $1,182,619 each.   

Starting on cue, just as the letter was sent, ‘news’ articles began appearing claiming that Native Hawaiians were harder hit by COVID:

  1. OHA May 8, 2020: OHA Board approves $3 million in COVID-19 emergency relief funds  (The 9th paragraph of this news release is copied word-for-word from the 3rd paragraph of OHA’s April 24 letter to Ige, yet there is no mention of the letter to Gov Ige.)

---30---

PDF: OHA Letter to Ige April 24, 2020

UPDATE June 6, 2020: New data on race shows that Native Hawaiians aren’t currently experiencing higher rates of COVID-19

May 3, 2020: OHA Insiders’ COVID Plan: “Push Money to Us”

July 29, 2019: OHA Anti-Telescope Activism Begins With Rejection of Cayetano-Era 'Settlement'

Dec 1, 2016: Harbors Division Fee Hike designed to boost $77M OHA Slush Fund?

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