(BIVN) – When compared to the rest of the United States, Hawaiʻi has suffered a heavy economic hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Hawaiʻi State House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness spoke to Hawaiʻi Representative Ed Case during its online meeting held Monday.
As a member of Congress, Case is intimately familiar with the trillions in federal relief allocated in recent months due to the impacts of the pandemic.
“I was wondering, are there any initiatives specifically targeted at markets that have higher propensity around visitor spending or visitor reliance?” asked bank of Hawaiʻi president Peter Ho during the meeting. He added, “because clearly places like Hawaiʻi and and Las Vegas are taking the brunt of the job losses relative to the rest of the country. And, secondly, as you begin to hear rumblings around re-emergence, that really the talk is around bringing construction and manufacturing back. And likely, things like the visitor industry on vacations would be somewhat back-ended.”
“Absolutely,” answered Congressman Ed Case, who noted “the incredible irony” of being “at the very top of the state lists in terms of containment on the public health side of the COVID-19, where we’re ranked number one or number two – depending on the day – in terms of the indicia of the pandemic actually impacting from a public health perspective, but yet [Hawaiʻi is at] the very bottom from the economic consequences, down there with Nevada, as a matter of fact, for obvious reasons. We’ve accomplished quite a bit in public health area at the expense of our number one economy, we all know that.”
Although there has not been aid specific to travel and tourism, Rep. Case said there has been aid that can be applied to the tourism industry. That includes help for small businesses, the Main Street Program in the CARES Act which helps businesses that don’t meet the small business threshold, and help for the airline industry.
“There was $61 billion dollars in CARES that was allocated directly to the airlines,” Rep. Case said, noting that Hawaiian Airlines applied for and received the clearance to get some of that money.
Case was also asked if there are any discussions about making the duration of various forms of aid dependent on States reaching certain targets, anticipating that Hawaiʻi recovery may take longer than others.
“We have in Congress, a number of us and I’m one of them, advocated for trigger mechanisms which will target aid to where it is absolutely needed, when it is needed,” Rep. Case answered. “I think the fair answer to your question is that, thus far, we have tended to treat the entire country as we’re all in this together and we’ve just got to get this funding out as fast as possible. And the more complexity as we introduce into the mechanism for getting the money out the longer it’s going to take.”
Case agreed that “the realistic fact is, it’s going to take us longer because of the complexities of tourists traveling in and out, and how we handle that particular part of our reopening. It’s not like we’re in manufacturing, where they get their plants in pretty good shape and then people can start to come back under some kind of social distancing regime, and testing regime, and pretty much go back to say 80% production. I mean, we’re just not going to go back to 10 million tourists overnight, and so I understand exactly what you’re saying and certainly I’m carrying that part of the conversation.”
Case added that “some of the funding that is coming out to in the second tranche of the assistance to our healthcare system, that trench was set up to send that particular amount of money to the states particularly hard-hit by COVID and that makes perfect sense. Why wouldn’t you want to get federal funding to the states that really, really need it,” like New York. “That’s fine, we understand, that we all have an obligation,” Case said. “But we will have our needs, too. I said that at the time that we didn’t know where we were going to be on the curve. I saying maybe in three weeks we’re gonna need this money just as much as anybody else.”
Case said “the same comment and concept goes equally to any number of these social safety net funding mechanisms. Over time, we’re going to need it a lot more than the rest of the country.”