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Details of Pandemic Aid Package Prompt Delay of State Furloughs

Ryan Finnerty / HPR

The future of a bill to deliver a second round of pandemic assistance spending remains unclear after President Trump expressed dissatisfaction with a measure passed by Congress this week.

In its current form, the bill would send more than $1 billion to Hawaii through a variety of programs, including several hundred million to offset expenses incured by state government.

That prompted Governor David Ige to delay planned furloughs for state workers, which had been set to begin in January.

If the proposal does become law, local businesses will gain access to almost $300 billion in Paycheck Protection Program funds, whch can be used to cover payroll and some operating expenses.

Unemployment benefits would also be extended, including for gig workers and independent contractors.

The state government will also receive money to offset pandemic costs, including almost 200 million for COVID-19 testing, tracing, and vaccine distribution. 

Island schools are also set to get some help. Around $200 million in federal funds could go to the Department of Education, money that can be used to pay teacher salaries.

Hawaii’s transit systems, including airports and buses, will also be eligible for nearly $130 million to cover the cost of increased safety measures.

Those amounts appeared to meet the threshold outlined by Governor David Ige earlier in the week, when  he said that he was considering delaying the planned furloughs pending the details of the congressional plan.

"If collectively we can recover several hundred million dollars in federal appropriations, that would allow us to consider delay or reducing the furloughs," Ige said during a budget briefing.

Ige did not specify when the furloughs would begin, citing the uncertainty of the situation.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin has said that stimulus checks could start reaching individuals within a week of the spending bill becoming law.

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