HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The governor has issued a moratorium on evictions, including for failure to pay rent, as Hawaii grapples with the colossal economic fallout of the COVID-19 shutdown.
Violators of the order face a misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to a year in jail or $5,000 fine.
Lawmakers and advocates have been pushing the state to issue an eviction moratorium for weeks, saying that the state will soon be dealing with a growing homeless crisis if the state doesn’t act.
Earlier on in the pandemic, Gov. David Ige had pointed to the closure of state courts as an effective protection for renters and homeowners from eviction. But he also pledged to look at the legality of stopping evictions entirely.
The moratorium was issued through an emergency order and is effective immediately.
The order continues through at least April 30, but could be extended.
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Hawaii has been among the states hardest-hit economically amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the shutdown of the tourism industry in the islands. Some 37% of Hawaii’s workers have been laid off since March 1 — the highest rate in the nation, Ige said — and thousands more have seen their hours reduced.
The governor told union leaders that state workers could face huge pay cuts — of as much as 20% — as state coffers shrink. He said the drop in tax revenues could force cuts of up to $1.5 billion to the state budget.
On Thursday, Ige appeared to walk the size of those pay cuts back, seeking to reassure employees and saying he was looking at a number of options to keep costs down.
But he also said that personnel costs remain a significant portion of the state’s spending.
This story will be updated.