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Lashed by the economic crisis, some Hawaii families find preparedness is out of reach

Updated: Jul. 23, 2020 at 11:21 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii officials are urging residents to have 14 days worth of food, water and other supplies on hand as Hurricane Douglas nears.

But for tens of thousands in Hawaii struggling to make ends meet, that’s a virtual impossibility.

The state is bracing for Douglas amid a pandemic that’s also triggered an unprecedented economic crisis.

Nearly 14,000 residents alone are still waiting on unemployment benefits from the state.

“I still have got nothing,” said Hilo resident Jordan Pavao, adding the money is needed now more than ever before. He applied for unemployment back in March and is still waiting for his check.

He said his auto repair business is pulling in less than half his usual income.

Now with Hurricane Douglas spinning toward the state, he said he simply can’t afford supplies for his family of four. “Me along with a lot of other people need the help staying afloat,” Pavao said.

Paauilo resident Keith Steele hasn’t received any benefits either.

With a family of five, he says his savings are running out quickly.

“Especially in this time of hurricane season and we have to stock up, we’re worried,” Steele said.

“We have our other bills that we should be paying and keep that up to date as well. So, what do we choose? Not paying our bills and stock up for the two weeks?”

The Hawaii Labor Department said it has paid $2.3 billion in benefits since March 1 and 92% of valid claims have been paid out. The agency blames delays on massive fraud and the efforts to verify claimants.

Meanwhile, this is the last week of the extra $600 in federal benefits.

Congress is poised to extend the payouts but likely at a lower rate.

Although that's no help to Pavao right now, he is hoping his next paycheck will be enough to cover the bare minimum to make it through the storm.

“I’m waiting until tomorrow when I get a paycheck to get gas and some food and whatever necessities we need,” he said.

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