Hotels for Heroes program criticized for turning many of those heroes away

Updated: Apr. 10, 2020 at 9:45 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Just days after the Hotels for Heroes program launched, first responders and medical workers are calling it confusing and too restrictive.

The program, a partnership with the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Authority, the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Visitors and Convention Bureau, was touted as providing hotel rooms for those on the front lines.

But Hawaii News Now has taken many calls and emails from those workers who say they were denied or just didn’t understand the process of signing up.

A Kaiser Permanente nurse, who didn’t want her name used, said she has been sleeping in a tent in the garage of her home for two weeks to protect loved ones.

“I don’t know if I have it, I could be asymptomatic come home and give it to one of my family members,” she said.

“One of my daughters has seizures, my husband has asthma, and then I have my mother who is 75 years old who also lives with me, so they’re all high risk.”

The nurse thought the Hotels for Heroes program was the answer.

But when she signed up, she was denied and told that Kaiser Permanente did not apply in time.

However, a spokesperson for the health plan had a different answer, saying in an email that she heard all the rooms were allocated already so the program was not an option.

Other complaints are coming in from rescue workers.

Firefighters fearing exposure learned from a memo that it is not open to them.

“Personnel who are deemed exposed, tested for (COVID-19), and under the exposure protocol ... or have been placed in self-isolation or self-quarantine by their health care provider, are not eligible until cleared by the IDO,” the memo said.

Two firefighters on different shifts at Station 32 in Kalihi tested positive last week for the virus.

Those in the same fire house were quarantined so they would not have been eligible even if they feared exposing family members.

Another example of just how confusing the program is: Even Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell believed it was for those quarantined while praising the collaboration during a press conference.

Hawaii News Now has learned that paramedics and EMT’s have tried to take advantage of the offer but sources say, the city is not pushing their requests through.

SHOPO, the police union, is coordinating for officers and said some might still use it to sleep closer to their assignments, especially officers on Neighbor Islands.

The Kaiser nurse who spoke to Hawaii News Now with said she and co-workers are disappointed.

“We’re not afraid of taking care of the patients, we’re afraid of what we’re bringing home to our family," she said.

She’ll continue sleeping in the tent until the pandemic is over.

The Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Authority told Hawaii News Now the program was never intended for people who were quarantined or self-isolating and the agency said that information was clearly communicated to agency leaders.

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