Kent, Hamada discuss city’s handling of COVID-19 funds, possible ‘green fee’ and more
from Grassroot Institute of Hawaii November 16, 2023
Visitor impact fees and mismanagement of COVID-19 relief funds were among the topics covered during Joe Kent’s latest appearance on the “Rick Hamada Program” on KHVH NewsRadio 830.
Kent, Grassroot Institute executive vice president, kicked off the discussion by addressing the city’s handling of its $387 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
Referencing a recent examination of those funds by the Honolulu city auditor, Kent said the lack of oversight resulted in funds being awarded to businesses that did not meet eligibility requirements, while at the same time, household relief fund applications faced excessive scrutiny, leaving thousands unprocessed and over $9 million unspent.
“The moral of the story,” Kent said, “is you have to follow the money, especially when there’s a huge surge of funds given to the government to dole out.”
Kent underscored the need for transparency and accountability, especially now that billions of dollars are being directed into both publicly and privately managed relief funds related to the destructive Aug. 8 fire in Lahaina and other parts of Maui.
Shifting gears, Kent and Hamada discussed Gov. Josh Green’s proposed $50 “green fee” for tourists visiting the islands. Proponents argue the fee would generate the revenue needed to mitigate the environmental impacts of tourism, but Kent said he doubts it would work.
The government tends to view people as “robots who would just do the same thing, no matter what changes in the tax code,” Kent said. But in reality, “we live our lives around the tax code. And so, if the tax goes up, people change their decisions.”
Regardless of its intentions, he said, such a fee could cause a “decline in our tourism market, which could lead to lower revenues overall.”
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