Only about 30% of Hawaii’s $1.2B in coronavirus relief aid has been spent so far

Gov. Ige's chief of staff responds to concerns over rate of CARES Act spending in Hawaii

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A group monitoring the spending of federal CARES Act money says the state and counties have spent only 30% of $1.2 billion in the COVID-19 relief aid.

According to the Hawaii Data Collaborative, $876 million in federal funds still needs to be spent as of last week. The Ige administration said leftover funds will be placed in the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund to help repay a $1 billion loan taken out to pay unemployed workers.

Jill Tokuda, adviser to the Hawaii Data Collaboration, said that there is a greater sense of urgency to push out funds but there are hold-ups.

“We’re asking to spend over a billion dollars into a community, you’re always going to have a supply-chain issue and other kinds of capacity issues,” Tokuda said. “So I think that has really slowed down the effort. But the bottom line is, this money needs to be expended.”

Linda Chu Takayama, chief of staff with the Ige Administration, said that the process is slow-moving because work on the front-end requires the money to end up in the right hands. If it turns out that individuals are not qualified to receive federal aid after the fact, money will have to be paid back.

“We’re very cognizant of the fact that it needs to go to the right people,” Tokuda said. “We’re being cautious and prudent upfront.”

State Rep. Sylvia Luke, who serves on the House Finance Committee, is one of the legislators who volunteered to help the administration process the funds.

“We’re at a point where we’re very confident that we’ll be able to spend all the money the federal government provided us,” Luke said.

Luke said there should be a “ramp-up” of spending in the coming weeks now that framework has been put in place to help process the money.

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