State offers small businesses $10 million in grants to help with PPE demand

Updated: Sep. 20, 2020 at 11:17 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - To keep up with the demand for personal protective equipment, the state is offering $10 million in grants for small businesses to manufacture them.

Kamanu Composites, a company in Kailua that builds canoes is one of the first three businesses awarded by the PPE supply chain program.

Co-founder of Kamanu Composites, Keizo Gates said they started making face shields in March and have been using supplies they already have.

Gates adds that they are going from making about 1,000 face shields a day to even more with the $500,000 grant they’re receiving from the program administered by the Hawaii Technology Development Corporation (HTDC) and the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT).

“For us, it’s really a game changer like we’re having to scale up kind of ten times,” said Gates. “So, we’ve gotten to the point of using our own equipment that we’ve had for canoe building to do a thousand a day but the needs are seemingly in the tens of thousands a day.”

Lt. Gov Josh Green supports the idea of the program and says the need for PPE will be long-term and significant in the fall and winter.

“We still have a lot patients, right now it’s 185 patients in the hospital today and that means you burn through a lot of PPE,” said Green. “Also, as we continue to test, we’re going to need PPE.”

Grants for the program is from the federal CARES Act funds. Acting Executive Director of HTDC, Len Higashi said it’s an effort to not only keep Hawaii safe, but provide job opportunities.

“We’re very grateful to be doing this and any opportunity that we can to put our people to work and make something that our community needs is a win-win situation for us the state,” said Higashi.

“We get to provide some jobs and help in some small way in the recovery so I feel really lucky,” said Gates.

The deadline to apply is October 26th. For more information, go visit HTDC’s website.

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