HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - At a virtual Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii gathering on Saturday, small business leaders across the state called on government to do more to help them stay afloat — and keep more workers on the job.
“And I’m asking, I’m begging, I’m imploring all of us and our leadership, local and state to use real data,” said Unyong Nakata, senior director of sales and marketing at Y. Hata & Co.
“Stop having knee-jerk reactions and if you don’t know, then let’s get together and talk about it and bring in the people who do know into the same room.”
Debbie Ching, owner and manager of Ken’s House of Pancakes and Ponds Restaurant, said she’s had to lay off nearly two dozen employees as sales dropped by more than 50%.
Jimmy Chan, owner of Hawaiian Chip Company, is also struggling to make ends meet.
“The PPP (Payment Protection Program) the intention was great, but the reality is, it’s turned our businesses into unemployment agencies and we’re not built to do that,” he said. “I’m still wondering how that’s going to affect my capacity to borrow, in the future because now my books are out of whack.”
And while the state says it plans to reboot tourism Sept. 1 with the launch of a traveler pre-testing program, businesses say they want a clear plan that the islands are on track to meet that goal.
The program was originally set to launch Aug. 1 but was delayed.
“There are a lot of start-up costs associated with reopening whether it’s restarting insurances, on-boarding staff, restocking shelves,” said Mike Periello, president and CEO of the Kauai Chamber of Commerce.
“There’s a lot of things businesses have to do to ramp up so they can restart and so we really only get one shot at this.”
Periello said they’re also asking for a financial relief program.
“Those places can remain vacant not only for months, but years and maybe even decades and so it is important for us to put together something that will help support our businesses right now.”
Added Chan: “If you can provide unemployment, there has to be some way to free up funds to provide relief for rent for businesses.”
Lt. Gov. Josh Green agrees that there should be micro-grants available to help small businesses, but adds that it’s challenging to determine whether Hawaii will re-launch tourism on time as cases rise in Hawaii.
“Taking extra risks is not what people are going to want to do, but being ready is the important part and being ready so when we see an opening that it’s safe, we take it,” said Green.