The Hawai‘i Way: Partners in pandemic survival

Posted on Nov 8, 2022 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main

Families survived with the help of state, county and federal programs.

The bottom line: An ‘Ohana Nui approach and an unprecedented collaboration during the Ige administration between the departments of Health and Human Services has resulted in major benefits for community members who most need state services. Despite the pandemic, in 2022 Hawai‘i was named one of the healthiest states in the nation.

Here’s just a sampling of how the Ige administration, working with county mayors, state departments, the legislature, healthcare workers, community stakeholders and federal partners, provided the support people needed at the height of the pandemic:

  • Increased healthcare, food and nutrition benefits – Medicaid enrollees increased by 36% and some 32,000 families were added to SNAP and $6.6 billion in benefits were distributed. Nearly $80 million went to support childcare providers when parents went back to work, and more than 97,000 eligible students received $61 million in food assistance. The state Department of Human Services, which approved  thousands of requests, averaged a two-day processing time to respond to the emergency. Through Da Bux program, the state matched a half million dollar donation from a hui of private sector partners to double the value of SNAP benefits.
  • Distributed unemployment benefits to hundreds of thousands of people – The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations overcame an antiquated mainframe system to provide $6.5 billion in unemployment insurance benefits and assistance.
  • Helped launch the popular Hawai‘i Restaurant Card – The pre-loaded $500 debit cards, funded with $75 million in relief funds, were mailed statewide to those who received unemployment benefits and provided a “win-win-win” for restaurants, local farmers and suppliers, and residents.
  • Found ways to support the business community – The state used federal funds to repay the state’s Unemployment Trust fund, saving millions of dollars for small businesses. It also provided more than 44,500 businesses and organizations in Hawai‘i with $3.8 billion through the Paycheck Protection Program. The $25 million Hawai‘I Business Pivot Grants reimbursed costs for small businesses and organizations that had to pivot their operations.
  • Provided rental relief and housing assistance to keep Hawai‘i’s people housed – Distributed more than $416 million in rental relief and housing assistance when people needed it most. In a January 2021 article, “Rent Relief Needed Fast. Hawai‘i Shows How,” Forbes magazine reported on how the state overcame bureaucratic hurdles to get help to people and described it as a model for other states.

Businesses and other organizations found ways to pivot.

 

Read more in the November/December Capitol Connection newsletter.

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