Keeping people safe, making systems work for the publicPosted on Dec 29, 2020 in Capitol Connection, Featured
The Department of Land and Natural Resources, its 11 divisions and four offices continued their work statewide but in health and safety-focused ways. State conservation officers worked seven days a week during the first surge to keep people safe and away from closed state parks and forest trails. The Division of Aquatic Resources developed spending plans for the distribution of $4.3 million in CARES Act funds for fishery interests. Public hearings and meetings moved to virtual formats. The department also used the “pause” in normal operations to catch up on a backlog of maintenance and repair and projects.
DHHL deployed rental and mortgage relief – In May 2020, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands initiated a rental relief program for its Applicant Waiting List beneficiaries and Undivided Interest Lessees. The program utilized $7 million in Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant funds available through the Native Hawaiian Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act. Eligible native Hawaiians who experienced income or job loss as a result of COVID-19 were qualified to receive assistance for payment of their security deposit and/or rent for up to six months. The Hawaiian Homes Commission also provided mortgage relief to beneficiaries.
The Department of the Attorney General has drafted and refined multiple COVID-19-related emergency proclamations, helped develop the Safe Travels Program, investigated and prosecuted travel quarantine violations, responded to over 100,000 requests for exemptions from travel restrictions and advised agencies and businesses on safe practices. The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, working with the Attorney General’s office, has successfully protected the state’s consumers in several legal actions, resulting in millions of dollars in settlements that can be used to help Hawai‘i residents. The Department of Public Safety’s advance planning enabled staff to effectively contain outbreaks at its correctional facilities through mass testing and other measures. PSD’s sheriffs assisted in over 80 operations to help the homeless and protected the traveling public and employees at airports by helping with screening and enforcement.
The Department of Taxation implemented mandatory e-filing to ensure that tax refunds are processed accurately and in a timely way to get funds back to the public. In a pandemic, mandatory e-filing provides a safe and efficient method to file tax returns.
The Department of Accounting and General Services’s behind-the-scenes work goes largely unseen by the public, yet affects every person in the state. This was especially true in 2020. Besides receiving a national Award for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the eighth consecutive year, DAGS was instrumental in purchasing critical PPE, COVID-19 test kits, construction completion of the Hawai‘i State Hospital’s new facility, facilitating the state’s first mail-in ballot election and upgrading the digital platforms for unemployment benefits and Safe Travels through the Office of Enterprise Technology Services. Also, with more employees teleworking, the Department of Human Resources and Development has launched a new Learning Management System for workers to develop skills and train remotely.
FINALLY, mahalo to the Hawai‘i COVID-19 JOINT INFORMATION CENTER and all of the department public information officers and staff statewide for their tireless work to keep the community informed in this unprecedented COVID-19 time.