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Governor Ige Says No Furloughs Thanks to New Federal Relief Package

State of Hawaii, Governor David Y. Ige from Flickr
FILE - Gov. David Ige during Hawaii's State of the State address on Jan. 25, 2021

HONOLULU — Hawaii won't need to furlough or lay off workers because the state will be receiving more financial help from the federal coronavirus relief legislation, Gov. David Ige said Thursday.

The Democratic governor had warned in December that the state would need to furlough more than 40,000 employees to balance the budget after plummeting tourism depleted tax revenue. Ige said his planned furloughs would cut worker pay by 9.2% and take effect Jan. 1.

But Ige delayed the furloughs after Congress approved a second round of coronavirus relief in December. The third and latest package signed by President Joe Biden, which provides Hawaii with about $1.6 billion to bolster its budget, allows Ige to take furloughs off the table completely.

"This new infusion of federal funding gives the state much needed breathing room so that layoffs and furloughs are no longer necessary in the foreseeable future," Ige said in a statement.

The governor said his administration will keep assessing the measure to get a clearer picture of how it will affect the state budget.

Hawaii's tourism-dependent economy has been hit hard by the pandemic as hundreds of hotels shut down and furloughed and laid off workers. As of December, Hawaii had the highest jobless rate in the nation, at 9.3%, but that's an improvement over the peak of 23.6% last April.

Hawaii's counties also will receive funding to help their budgets. Honolulu will get $365 million; Hawaii County, $36 million; Maui, $30 million; and Kauai, $13 million.

In addition, money will go to public schools, the University of Hawaii and rent and mortgage assistance. The state Department of Health will receive funding to cover COVID-19 vaccinations and mental health and substance abuse programs.

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