Providing for families, housing beyond the pandemicPosted on Jan 29, 2021 in Capitol Connection, Featured
Hawai‘i went from having the lowest unemployment rate to having one of the highest in just a few weeks. That’s why we have paid out more than $4 billion in unemployment benefits during the pandemic. That’s why distributing the federal CARES Act funds was a priority. We are grateful for the assistance of the Senate and the House— specifically Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz and Rep. Sylvia Luke—in helping us direct these monies to those who needed them, including $75 million in restaurant cards for the unemployed, $25 million to small businesses for new products and markets, $3 million to support the commercial fishing industry, $61 million for PPE for business and educational institutions, $10 million for local PPE manufacturing, $15 million for childcare providers, $31 million for computers and connectivity for our students,$14 million to bring in nurses and healthcare workers, and $5 million for food assistance.
We also spent more than $71 million in housing assistance to about 13,700 households who would have otherwise faced eviction. This program was cited by Forbes Magazine as a model for the nation in getting rent checks to landlords faster than any other state. Moreover, the pandemic underscored why having a steady supply of affordable housing is so important for our families’ well-being. We achieved our initial goal of building 10,000 new homes by 2020. But we need to do more. I am setting a new goal of 3,000 more units by the end of 2022. We also want to make lands available to build affordable leasehold homes, particularly around the rail line. As I outlined last year, if we can reduce the cost of land, we could dramatically lower the overall cost of affordable housing in Hawai‘i. I will be asking the Legislature to consider a bill to do just that. More importantly, the initiative would keep this supply of housing affordable forever. We also want to invest more in capital improvement projects, adding infrastructure and roads that will allow us to develop more homes. To that end, I am asking my administration to take a sweeping look at how we generate affordable housing— from financing through construction.