Bill that would provide rent relief to businesses advances in state Legislature

Updated: Mar. 30, 2021 at 10:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As more businesses bite the dust and fall victim to the economic impact of the pandemic, the state passed a bill to help businesses recover from back rent.

If House Bill 1324 is passed, it would create a grant program for landowners to provide relief to their commercial tenants.

Using federal money, the state would allow eligible business tenants to qualify for the lesser of 3% of 2019 taxable rent or three months of full rent.

Despite the second round of PPP and other new federal programs, Ryan Tanaka of Island Business Management said some businesses have accumulated up to an entire year of back rent.

“We saw the greatest drop in GDP among all 50 states in 2020, next to Nevada, which explains why these custom rules-based programs provide a way to expedite a local economic recovery as a strong support,” Tanaka said.

Some businesses who have thought about closing their doors for good welcome the assistance.

“When the Stay at Home Order took place and no one would actually come here, our sales dropped like 90%,” said Yuka Nawano, president and CEO of Eggs N’ Things. “But most of us, we have to still, you know, be obligated to the same rent and there’s just no way that we can survive without this rent relief program.”

Similarly, Debbie Hopkins, co-owner of Global Village in Kailua, said that rent relief is needed.

“We were able to work with our landlord. And since they were able to work with us, we wanted a program that also helped them,” she said

While operating businesses are excited for relief, the help comes too little, too late for many that have already shut down.

“This program is just a temporary fix to help us get to maybe the next couple of months, versus a full on fix because it’s still a struggle day by day,” Hopkins said.

Nawano sees this as a springboard for landowners to set new and reasonable expectations.

“I think it would also be a good opportunity to gauge in discussion of what can we do, not just as tenants, but you know working together as a team to try and help the whole economy recover,” Nawano said.

The bill must now be voted on twice more by the full senate before going to the governor’s desk.

Starting next week, the Small Business Association will increase PPP forgivable loan limits.

In the meantime, a bill in Congress will extend the deadline to apply for a loan through May 31.

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