HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Millions of dollars on Hawaii Restaurant Cards need to be used by next week or it will go away.
With just days left before the deadline, restaurant owners are begging people to come eat.
“We’ve been hit hard,” said Pizza Press owner Sarah Nguyen. “With that [card], it’s helped us and local businesses to be able to stay afloat during these times.”
The state started mailing out $500 gift cards to qualified unemployed workers in October for them to spend at Hawaii eateries.
About 150,000 were issued totaling about $74 million in federal CARES Act funds. As of December 3rd, only $52 million had been spent.
[Note: On Friday morning, the day after this story had been published, a spokesperson restaurant card program said that $60.5 million had been spent through late Thursday.]
“December 15th at 11:59 at night, the cards will go to zero. So, people have to use their cards and today is already the 10th,” said Sheryl Matsuoka Hawaii Restaurant Association Executive Director.
Money unspent will go back to the state to help them pay back a loan they took out for all the unemployment claims.
To help the food service industry, Honolulu’s mayor granted a 90-day extension on Oahu’s disposable food ware ordinance that was set to go in effect January 1st.
“We found this balance, we thought we’d allow a further education period another 90 days from January 1st to allow restaurants to continue to use up their remaining disposable ware and other items so that by the time they finish in March, they’ll be ready,” said Kirk Caldwell.
While every little bit helps, Nguyen is hoping to see more people support local businesses this holiday season.
“With the shutdown and with COVID, business has been down. With the Hawaii Restaurant Card, it’s definitely helped and helped us boost up our sales. For November we did OK. Not pre-COVID numbers, but better than we were doing before,” Nguyen said.
If you have questions about your card, call the Hawaii Restaurant Association at (808) 421-8792.