From the governor: Staying ‘Hawai‘i Strong’ for us all

Posted on Oct 3, 2022 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main

The arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines in Hawai‘i. Gov. Ige, National Guard personnel and county officials confer about the impact of Kīlauea’s lava on residents.

When we needed it most, when it mattered most, Hawai‘i stepped up. During the past eight years, our community has weathered an unprecedented series of crises: a once-in-a-generation global pandemic, the Kīlauea eruption, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and fuel contamination at Red Hill. Through it all, Hawai‘i, its leaders and the community – from keiki to kūpuna  – have shown the values that make us strong. This issue of Capitol Connection looks back at all we’ve survived and forward to what we’ve learned for the future.

Q: How are you feeling about the progress of the tax refund distribution?

A: The tax department is working as fast as it can. All of the direct deposit refunds have been processed, and the mailed checks should be distributed by the end of October as we take delivery of the paper stock to print them. I’m excited we’re able to get the refunds into the pockets of hard-working people quicker, thanks to our new tax modernization system.

Q: Why is getting the new COVID-19 bivalent booster so important?

A: We’re moving into this stage where we all need to learn to live with COVID-19. The bivalent booster not only provides protection for early variants but also the most recent ones that have become prevalent. We in Hawai‘i have shown we can be smart about public health recommendations to help slow the spread of the disease.

Q: What have COVID-19 and the other emergencies taught us?

A: The pandemic, hurricanes and other statewide emergencies have highlighted how vulnerable Hawai‘i is because of our geographic isolation and how we have to import so much of what we need. We operate on a “just in time” basis where food and other supplies arrive every week. If there’s any kind of disruption, it has a huge impact on our communities. That’s why sustainability is really about us being more self-reliant so we can produce our own food and generate our own energy instead of relying on imported sources.

Q: What was the hardest decision you’ve had to make during the pandemic?

A: Establishing the travel quarantine we imposed because of its impact on jobs and our economy. In the early days with no vaccines and no treatment, ordering the quarantine was the best public health action we could take to keep our community safe.  At the time, everybody believed this was something that would end in a few months. I don’t think anyone thought three years later we would still be fighting the disease. Now at least we have vaccines, oral therapeutics and know more about how to prevent infection.

Q: What has made the difference for Hawai‘i, in spite of our vulnerabilities?

A: It’s our sense of community. I hear praise from FEMA people all the time about the high level of collaboration they see in Hawai‘i during an emergency or natural disaster. On weekly calls with other governors nationwide, the differences between some places on the mainland and Hawaii were like night and day. In some other states, people didn’t believe government should restrict their personal rights in any way. Hawai‘i’s people understood that masks and vaccines helped keep us all safe.

Q: What do you want people to know about plans for a new stadium?

A: We’re committed to completing the construction of a new stadium in Halawa as quickly as possible and streamlining that process going forward. For the first time, the state legislature provided $350 million in bonds for construction and another $50 million to operate the facility so we can simplify the process. We’ll be releasing more details in the coming weeks.

 

Read more in the October Capitol Connection newsletter.

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