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City: Personal information belonging to some Oahu rent relief applicants mishandled

Updated: May. 5, 2021 at 4:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - An Oahu man waiting to find out if he was approved for the city’s rental and utility relief program recently got an email saying a check was on the way.

But he quickly realized that message and all the personal information it contained wasn’t for him.

“It’s not for me,” said applicant Eduardo Hernandez. “It’s not my landlord. And I’m seeing their details which I shouldn’t have seen.”

The email was sent Tuesday, and the city confirmed that wasn’t the only message sent in error.

Hernandez said the email he got included another applicant’s name, their landlord, the landlord’s address and the amount of money they were awarded.

“To me it said we’re running a sloppy program,” he said. “We’ve been awarded tens of millions of dollars and we’re running a sloppy program.”

The city says six confirmation emails were sent to the wrong applicants. The program, which launched last month, is currently managing a total of 12,000 applications.

A city spokesperson said in a statement:

“While the emails had incorrect names, they did not disclose additional identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers. Our subcontractors have called the affected applicants and will send them a formal written notice of the incident.

“We have also confirmed that payments went to the correct people. We take the protection of personal information seriously and deeply regret this error. We are working with our community partner to update their processes to prevent this from happening again.”

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, which was the non-profit handling Hernandez’s claim, emailed him an apology and blamed the mishandling of personal information on a “system error.”

Hernandez says better safeguards should have been in place.

“This is a critical, important, vital program that the city cannot afford to get wrong,” he said.

The rental and utility aid program is tasked with distributing more than $100 million in federal funds.

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