Hawaii program will subsidize health care costs for some... - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii program will subsidize health care costs for some small business new hires

Gov. Linda Lingle Gov. Linda Lingle
Ozzy Naweli Ozzy Naweli
Shontaz Naweli Shontaz Naweli
George Nitta George Nitta

By Holly Juscen – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Small businesses in Hawaii are getting a big boost. The state says hire someone who is collecting unemployment right now and we'll help you pay for them.

"We want jobs to get created. We have identified one of the impediments: the cost of bringing on a new employee and one of the biggest costs is paying the health insurance premium, so this program will pay one-half of the health insurance premium for up to one year for each new employee that is brought on," said Governor Linda Lingle.

The program is called Hawaii Premium Plus. The target is to get more than 6400 unemployed people back to work. Businesses have to have fewer than 50 employees right now to apply. Some learned the details Tuesday at the State Capitol.

The owners of Ozzy's Construction in Waimanalo said health insurance costs have stopped them from hiring new employees.

"We are probably looking to hire about four or five people to expand our company," said Ozzy Naweli of Ozzy's Construction.

"This program is going to help. It helps a lot… just covering half makes a lot of difference" said Shontaz Naweli of Ozzy's Construction.

But George Nitta, of Nitta's Auto Repair in Kalihi, says now is not the time to add employees.

"How you going to hire people when you don't have the business. If you are dead slow what are you going to be doing hiring people just because of this Premium Plus BS?" said Nitta.

Hawaii is the first state in the nation to implement this job creation initiative. It is not restricted to entry level jobs, and employers can start hiring immediately.

"We know people are out of work in a variety of jobs, not just entry level jobs, but good quality jobs as well, and we wanted there to be an incentive for an employer to bring back those kinds of employees," said Governor Lingle.

The governor hopes this program will drop the state unemployment rate from 6% to 7%.

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