Hawaii Updates: Hawaii Has No New Cases; City Financial Help Available; Honolulu Gets $90M For Buses

May 8, 2020

Updated: 5/8/2020, 12:08 p.m.

Hawaii reported no new cases of the coronavirus today, the first time in two months since additional cases began dropping to single digits. The health department reported today that the count remains at 629 and the death roll stands at 17. 

Oahu's case count is now at 408, Maui County at 116, Hawaii County at 74, and Kauai at 21. Ten were diagnosed out of state.

Hawaii's continuing "flattening of the curve" is spurring the reopening of the state. The governor and county mayors have begun to allow low-risk businesses and activities to resume, lifting local stay-at-home orders that took effect in March. 

Residents are still urged to take precautions, wear cloth masks when they are out and about, practice social distancing and return home when they are done with their business.

City offers hardship aid to those impacted by virus

The city is offering financial help to those hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting May 18, Honolulu residents can seek reimbursement for household expenses such as rents and utilities and for child care expenses.

Community Services Director Pamela Witty-Oakland says the city is working with nonprofit groups like Aloha United Way, the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, Helping Hands Hawaiʻi, and other service providers to provide the help.

"These organizations will work with the families, and those affected. [They] will collect receipts and provide reimbursement of eligible household expenses of up to $1,000 a month, and eligible child care expenses of up to $500 a month for as long as six months – if the hardship lasts that long," she said.

"The max income is 100% AMI (Area Median Income), which on Oahu for a family of four is over $90,000. And anyone [can qualify] who can demonstrate hardship -- they have to have been impacted by the COVID-19 event -- and be able to demonstrate that they have expenses beyond any other income that they’re receiving."

Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the hardship relief program will be using $25 million in federal CARES Act money.

The program’s details are still being finalized and more information will be released soon.

--HPR's Casey Harlow

New schedule for weekly unemployment filings

If you’re submitting weekly unemployment certifications, the state is now asking you to file it on specific days based on the first letter of your last name starting Monday.

The new process is an effort to unclog the system that has delayed jobless checks.

“So what we've done starting on Monday of next week is we're asking the community support in helping us file your certifications during particular times," said state Labor Director Scott Murakami yesterday.

The schedule follows:

• Monday: Those with last names beginning with A to G.

• Tuesday: Those with last names beginning with H to O.

• Wedneday: Those with last names beginning with P to Z.

• Sunday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday: anyone can file.

Yesterday's Hawaii Updates: Legislature Reconvenes Monday To Deal With $1B Shortfall; Case Count Up By 3

"I ask the community support in allowing your friends and neighbors with the corresponding last names to file during those times,” he said.

Murakami reminds claimants that when they file and are asked if they have searched for jobs, they should answer "yes," even if they did not look for employment.

That’s because the system isn’t set up to recognize that there are few jobs during the COVID-19 crisis. People who otherwise qualify for the benefits will receive them, officials say.

The state said it had processed141,077 claims as of Wednesday, which represents 63% of the over 220,000 claims received.

--HPR's Sandee Oshiro

Honolulu to receive $90M in federal CARES Act transit funding

The city will get $90.8 million in funding as part of the CARES Act to help transit systems to continue to operate during the COVID-19 crisis.

The money will help support TheBus system and TheHandi-Van, the city said in press release. The funding comes through the Federal Transit Administration and will be used to maintain operations and levels of service into next year.

Ridership on the city buses dropped sharply when local stay-at-home orders took effect. The city has been adjusting routes and schedules to keep buses running, particularly for essential workers and those needing to get to medical appointments.

Hawaii Food Bank drive-through distribution today at Leeward Community College

The Hawaii Food Bank will be distributing food today at Leeward Community College starting at 10 a.m.

Enter along Ala Like. See map for further directions.

The sponsors of the distribution ask that two to three families carpool to minimize traffic. One adult from each household must show a valid, government-issued ID.

The wait can be as long as four hours, so drivers should have full tanks and be prepared with snacks. Empty your trunk, backseat, hatchback or tail gate to make space for the food. Bring a pen and a completed household information form for each family.

About 4,000 families will be assisted or until supplies run out.

Visitor count again exceeds 200 as quarantine does not deter tourists

The tourists continue to trend upwards as 233 visitors came to the islands on Wednesday, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, that's despite the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Some 669 people arrived in the state on that day, including 189 returning residents, 143 crew members, 55 intended residents and 49 transiting travelers. 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Editor's note: We’d like to hear how you’re coping with the latest developments in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus. You can call our talkback line at 808-792-8217. Or e-mail us at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.