Ige is ‘hopeful’ federal relief will help to defer or reduce planned furloughs

Updated: Dec. 21, 2020 at 5:16 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The governor said Monday he is “hopeful” that a federal coronavirus relief package that could send as much as $1.7 billion in aid to Hawaii will help to defer or reduce planned furloughs of most state government workers.

“We are working through the details ... so we can understand what funds will be headed our way and what restrictions there are on those funds,” Gov. David Ige said, at a news conference.

“We continue to look at all measures in an effort to avoid furloughs.”

But the governor also warned that the federal aid wouldn’t be enough to tackle the state’s unprecedented budget crisis, and warned that deep cuts in spending are a reality.

He also said that layoffs and tax increases remain on the table.

The long-awaited $900 billion relief measure, which still must be approved by Congress and the president, includes direct payments of $600 to Americans and billions for business, rental and other aid.

US Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said the measure isn’t nearly enough to tackle the economic pain of the pandemic but is a start. And he told Hawaii News Now on Monday that the federal could reduce the need for some or all of the state’s planned furlough days that are poised to begin in January.

Earlier this month, the governor announced a furlough plan for most state workers in a bid to slash approximately $300 million a year in payroll costs.

The furloughs ― two unpaid days each month ― would amount to a roughly 9% pay cut.

“I think everybody wants to avoid furloughs,” Schatz said.

“I don’t know if it’s enough to avoid the furloughs. I hope it is. We’re going to do the math with them. We’re going to help them understand what’s a permissible use of all of these dollars.”

In a news conference Monday, Ige also said that the state is working hard to determine the “flexibility” of the federal funds to determine if some could be used to defer or hold off on the furlough plan.

The governor has said the furloughs are necessary to prevent thousands of layoffs amid an ongoing budget crisis that’s created a $1.4 billion general fund shortfall in each of the next four years.

The furloughs are part of a massive plan to dramatically cut state spending.

In discussing the budget, Ige said there’s no sugarcoating the impacts on high-need programs, including in education and in public health.

This story will be updated.

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