(BIVN) – The Hawaiʻi State Legislature reconvened on Monday, and lawmakers are focusing on stabilizing the state budget in anticipation of a $1 billion shortfall in state revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the floor of the House, Speaker Scott Saiki delivered the following remarks:
We all know that this is an unprecedented time. And especially now, Hawaii residents want leadership.
As I have said before, the House of Representatives is a leader. Rather than just criticize, the House has stood up and taken on challenges when no one else has.
For example, in just three days, the House took the lead with the Department of Labor to stand up the unemployment intake center at the Waikiki convention center. Over 210 volunteers are now processing unemployment applications and taking calls to help people. More than 57,000 new claims have been paid out in the last three weeks alone. Although we know there is more work to be done, we are making progress and doing the work to help people.
I’d like to acknowledge the UI Intake Center Volunteers: House members and staff, Legislative Reference Bureau, Clerk’s Office, Sergeant at Arms, HMSO, HMIR, State government workers from various departments, including public school teachers and university faculty.
Besides unemployment, the House is leading in other areas. The House has identified and prioritized construction projects that can begin now.
The House is working with farmers to innovate production and distribution methods that can last beyond this pandemic.
The House is working with the Department of Education to determine how video technology can enhance student learning and teaching in our schools.
These are just a few examples and we know that there is more important work ahead of us. But this is what the House does. We identify problems. We develop solutions. We get the work done.
This pandemic has shown us that government is key to reopening Hawaii and protecting our safety net. In the next two weeks, we will stabilize our state budget to avoid drastic cuts and disruption in basic government services. We will continue our work on a statewide framework to gradually reopen Hawaii in a coordinated manner while keeping people healthy and safe. And we will work with the Governor to design this quickly and to ensure that the entire state understands our plan.
When we began our session on January 15, no one would have imagined where we find ourselves today. But as I mentioned, this is the time to lead. The public wants us to lead with intelligence, compassion and strength. And I have no doubt that this is exactly what the House will do.