Hundreds laid off on Lanai as economic toll of inter-island quarantine, shutdown mount

Updated: Sep. 2, 2020 at 4:39 AM HST
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LANAI, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Another major company is drastically cutting its workforce amid the pandemic — and this time it’s hitting an island where there are few other options for employment.

Hundreds of employees at the Four Seasons Resorts Lanai are being furloughed or laid off.

The resort says all employees were kept on the job with pay and benefits from the March 25 statewide lockdown through the property’s reopening on July 1.

But company officials say business significantly dropped after the inter-island quarantine was reinstated last month.

In a notice to the state Labor Department, the Four Seasons Resorts Lanai said 752 employees will be furloughed. The company says 492 of those workers are union employees who will be temporarily laid off.

The company says cuts started on August 11 and the entire property will be closed for business for the foreseeable future.

“We thank our dedicated teams for their understanding and commitment to keeping themselves and everyone we serve safe, and look forward to welcoming employees and guests back to our resorts when we reopen,” the resort said in a statement.

The resort joins other businesses, like Hawaiian Airlines, that managed to resist major layoffs for months, but can no longer carry the costs.

Lawmakers say they’re very concerned that the state unemployment office will become overwhelmed again with this surge in layoffs on top of the existing backlog.

“The initial ramp up at the Convention Center, which had about 200 plus volunteers that processed and worked on unemployment claims, has been substantially scaled back because a lot of those employees have been called back to their regular work,” said House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke.

Luke says President Trump’s executive order for federal unemployment benefits also complicates things. The order says for recipients to qualify for the federal benefit, they must already be receiving $100 per week in state benefits.

“The president’s executive order requires a totally different system. We continue to hear that people are not having their unemployment claims processed, and it seems like it’s not going away any time soon,” said Luke.

When asked, the state Labor Department says it’s prepared.

Labor officials say problems with their system’s mainframe and portal access have been addressed, and they say they also hired 49 additional staff members, with plans to hire 41 more.

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