HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii businesses are now able to purchase Hawaii Restaurant Cards for their employees in what officials hope is a win-win for workers and the state’s ailing economy.
The card was initially for unemployed workers, who got $500 in federal COVID-19 relief funds to spend at restaurants, bakeries or catering businesses (but not grocery stores) in the islands.
The new Hawaii Restaurant Card-Business Holiday Card can be purchased by Hawaii companies for employees ― or for donation ― but still must be spent at eateries or bakeries in the state.
The state is spending $85,000 in federal funds on the program’s expansion so that companies won’t have to cover fees associated with producing the cards.
“If you don’t end the year strong, you usually don’t start the year strong," said Victor Lim, legislative liaison with the Hawaii Restaurant Association. “I think this gives us a fighting chance.”
Gov. David Ige said the Hawaii Restaurant Card program has been very successfully, injecting $25 million into the state’s restaurant industry already.
Some $75 million in federal funds was set aside for the program.
Funds on Hawaii Restaurant Cards for unemployed workers must be used by Dec. 15.
Officials said the new privately-purchased cards must be used by March 31. After that, the funds are donated to nonprofits that serve the agricultural community and restaurant education.
The program already has interest from businesses.
“We’re excited to purchase these cards as gifts for all of our faculty and staff,” said Kim Gennaula, the Executive Director of Advancement at Iolani schools. “It’s our way of showing our gratitude to them for the many ways that they have given to our school community over the last few months.”
This story will be updated.