(BIVN) – State officials shared a positive message of hope on Wednesday afternoon, during a news conference held on Oʻahu.
The following updates were provided by the Office of Governor David Ige:
Hawai‘i, We Are Almost There
Governor David Ige was cautiously optimistic in remarks delivered at a news briefing this afternoon. “Your hard work, sacrifices, and diligence are paying off,” the governor said. For the past ten days, the state has experienced six or fewer new cases of COVID-19. “The curve has flattened…until there is a vaccine or cure we are not out of the woods, and we still need to remain extremely vigilant,” Governor Ige emphasized. He singled out Kauai Mayor Derick Kawakami’s leadership and the people of the Garden Island for becoming the first island with no new or active cases in two weeks
Work to Relax Restrictions and Mandates Underway
With Hawai‘i’s low rate of coronavirus infections, Governor Ige says state and county leaders are looking at easing restrictions and reopening the local economy. He reiterated his earlier pledge that this will happen in phases, based on health data, science and guidance from healthcare advisors. The governor and county mayors are looking at ways to scale back mandates in a cautious, safe and coordinated manner. However, the governor warned, “Please keep in mind that there is a widespread expectation of a second wave of cases, not just here, but on the mainland and worldwide. If we start to see a surge, some of the mandates may have to be reinstated.”
Help for Self-Employed and Independent Contractors
The governor announced the launch of a new system to specifically help people are are not typically eligible for regular unemployment benefits. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA was made available through the federal CARES Act. As it is a new program, it comes with new requirements and Governor Ige describes it as a difficult process. He said, “Hawai‘i is one of the first states to bring PUA on line. I’m pleased to announce that starting this week people can begin to submit applications for PUA relief funds.” [More at pua.hawaii.gov]
Additional Help for Small Businesses
Payments to businesses under the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), which has brought more than $2 billion in forgivable loans to the state, will not be subject to the State General Excise Tax (GET). Governor Ige said this will help ensure that funds stay in the hands of small businesses so they can keep people on their payrolls and cover some of their operational expenses. While the state can administratively waive GET, it can’t do the same for income taxes. So in keeping with the federal stance that PPP loans are excluded from federal gross income tax, the Dept. of Taxation will be asking the Hawai‘i State Legislature to pass legislation that permits the state to conform to federal rules. This is expected to provide some relief to the more than 11,000 small businesses that have received PPP loans, with a second round of funding that started on Monday.
The following information was provided by Lieutenant Governor Josh Green:
During remarks at today’s media briefing Lt. Governor Josh Green thanked everyone in Hawai‘i for doing a great job in practicing social distancing and taking other measures which have greatly flattened the curve of new COVID-19 infections in the state. “We are sad to lose 16 of our loved ones and our hearts are with their families and friends,” Green said. He added, “Fortunately Hawai‘i is among a few states with the lowest mortality rate. The fact that we share this distinction with really rural states like Wyoming, Utah, North and South Dakota, is a great sign for Hawai‘i. The Lt. Governor cautioned everyone not to become complacent, saying it is likely there will be additional deaths. While the curve has been flattened (four new cases today), people already in the hospital or have chronic conditions could still succumb to COVID-19, even as the number of cases and active disease decreases. Green, the governor’s healthcare liaison, shared the following statewide hospital numbers: