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Governor announces $200M program for housing, utility assistance

Updated: Feb. 9, 2021 at 1:55 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige said the state will expand its rental assistance program for families hard hit by the pandemic by another $200 million.

The money -- part of the latest federal stimulus package -- will not only help residents with their rent but will help them pay their utilities.

“We ended up providing $70 million in rental relief and that covered the period from March of last year to December of last year,” said Gov. David Ige.

“They (the federal government) have provided $200 million and they have provided more flexibility so we can also include utility payments as part of that and they did provide the option of making direct payments to tenants.”

But Ige said in a news conference Tuesday that each county would have a single clearinghouse for applications.

And he said the rules surrounding the program are more flexible than the state’s previous housing assistance program, which struggled to get aid to those who needed it.

For one, he said, payments can go directly to applicants rather than just landlords if the landlords don’t want to participate in the program.

“Priority will be given to households where the member is unemployed or the income is at or below 50 percent of the area income,” Ige said.

Attorney David Chee, who represents property owners, said the expanded aid is enough to stave off eviction for renters who have fallen behind.

“About $55 million is presently owed by the residential tenants in the state of Hawaii. So If you take $200 million, you can entirely wipe out the back rent debt,” he said.

Ige also said he plans to extend the eviction moratorium another two months.

This story will be updated.

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