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Social Distancing and Business in Hawaii

Catherine Cruz / HPR

Social distancing has made its way to Hawaii as a way to prevent the spread of coronavirus. And its impacts have been felt immediately — and in nearly every industry.

Top of mind for everyone is our lifeline to the outside world, the shipping companies. Matson tells PBN it intends to maintain service schedules as normal, which is three arrivals a week to Honolulu and twice a week to Neighbor Island ports. Pasha Hawaii will also continue its service connecting Los Angeles, Oakland and Hawaii. Young Brothers does not expect interruptions to its service between the islands.

Hawaii’s service-driven economy is especially challenged by the “work from home” efforts now underway. One of the most visible signs of social distancing is the closure of restaurants and bars to dine-in customers. Restaurants can try to weather the storm with such strategies as continued marketing for the services they can provide and selling gift certificates, which put money in their hands now and customers in their dining rooms later.

Commercial real estate brokers we spoke with compare this time to the immediate effects of the Great Recession and expect some of the same impacts. Struggling businesses certainly can approach their landlords for rent relief, but expect to be asked to share real financial data to back up the claim. It’s not unusual for landlords to work with their tenants to help keep them in business.

For workers facing the prospect of layoffs, the Hawaii state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations is gearing up to expedite unemployment claims. Hawaii has had several years now of low unemployment, but that office has seen claims increase about 27% through the first week of March.

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