(BIVN) – The Hawaiʻi County Council on Wednesday voted to pass a resolution in support of funding small businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Councilmember Matt Kanealiʻi Kleinfelder introduced Resolution 666-20, urging the administration to use $5 million of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act money to fund a micro-grant program that would enable small businesses to apply for financial relief up to $10,000.
During the meeting, Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder said that the Big Island has about 22,000 businesses, and that a University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization (UHERO) report said about 5% percent of those businesses will not open up their doors again. “And I think that may be closer to 5% to 10% percent,” Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder said. “Five percent would be 1,100 other businesses. For us, as legislators, that is 1,100 businesses – at the state level, not just the county level – that will not be paying property taxes, GE tax, TAT… you go on down the list. That’s a huge amount of revenue that we lose by not supporting this section of our economy.”
“I think in the County, it’s important for us to remember that we set our budget a year ahead, and we know we’re gonna be dealing with,” the Puna councilman said. “This year we knew we had a $40 million dollar shortfall and we made that up by being a little bit creative. And then we also had to raise taxes on a very select portion of the community. Small businesses don’t have that ability. When they face hard times, they get creative. They lay people off. And they start stressing out. It’s important for us to remember, because at the county level we don’t see that and we don’t deal with economic shortfalls the same way. So without knowing what’s in store with SBA funding, I worry about our small businesses. PPP funds are starting to dwindle [that] some of the businesses are you are relying on to perpetuate their their business models. And we still are facing some unprecedented unemployment numbers.”
Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder said that as Hawaiʻi begins to face the reality of possible cuts to unemployment funding, “we all need to take a really good look at what happens when we don’t support the quiet backbone of our economy. And as one of the few members on this council who has a small business, you know, I’m speaking from experience. I’m speaking from a place of, you know, frustration of what I’ve seen in the community. This goes for our entire County.”
The Puna councilman asked his fellow councilmembers to “put yourself in the small businesses’ position. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what you would do if your small business was told to be closed and not allowed to be open for months, while you continue to get bills in the mail. That’s the reality of what they’re facing now. And even in being opening again, they still can’t open to full capacity. And when you’re not allowed to open to full capacity, and you still have the same overhead that you had from the beginning, then you’re in an incredibly tight position.”
Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder said the council received about 40 public testimonies by email on the matter, “from some businesses our community that have been here forever. And if businesses that have been around since 30, 40, 50 years are struggling right now, then we need to be there to support them,” he said.
The council voted in support of the measure.
The council also approved another resolution (Res. 665-20) requesting that CARES Act funding be utilized “to support businesses, and at-risk communities and individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” and another measure (Res. 680-20) supporting gender equality in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.