As deadline approaches, worries grow about programs funded by CARES Act

Uncertainty in DC leaves Hawaii lawmakers unsure about future of COVID aid

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the deadline approaches for use of federal CARES Act money, concerns grow over what happens when the state loses access to funds.

According to the Hawaii Data Collaborative, a group tracking the money, 48% of the $1.25 billion in aid to the state has been expended.

According to state Rep. Sylvia Luke, who also chairs the House Finance Committee, the state received clarification from the federal government that as long as plans for the money has been processed, checks can still be cut 90 days after the deadline of Dec. 31.

“That helps us a lot,” Luke said. “Because if we were to put in all the documentation by Dec. 31, some of the programs would have to stop in about two weeks.”

Luke said because of the breathing room, she’s confident most of the money will be spent on what it was budgeted for.

“It looks like around $50 million will go to unemployment because the departments have done such a good job in expending a lot of money,” Luke said.

Along with other lawmakers, Luke is worried about the programs that were established with CARES Act money.

“The need continues for PPE, hygiene equipment, testing,” she said. “It will continue to be a concern.”

Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors has joined her counterparts in other states in urging Congress to extend the deadline.

A bipartisan group also introduced a more than $900 billion plan for relief.

But extensions and future funding are still up in the air.

“How are we going to sustain these kinds of costs now going into the new year when we’re still going to have to be doing contact tracing and testing?” Jill Tokuda, adviser to the Hawaii Data Collaborative said. “And now hopefully a vaccine rollout as well, which is not free and takes money.”

She said that’s the reason why there’s a push on the federal level for more aid.

“I think all eyes are on the congressional negotiations right now to see what even relief can they pump out for the first quarter of next year,” Tokuda said.

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