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Hawaii businesses used grant money to fund PPE production pivot (and stay afloat)

Published: May. 19, 2021 at 5:37 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kauai Kookie has been in the Hashisaka family since 1965, and they remember very well how the world turned upside down in 2020.

“When you ask about that time, I remember one day coming in here and we actually still have right here, some toilet paper,” said Kauai Kookie co-owner and CEO Ann Hashisaka.

“I actually sold more rolls of toilet paper than cookies many days.”

When the pandemic first hit, Kauai Kookie shifted from baking treats to making masks, with employees picking up sewing.

As the recipients of thousands of dollars in grant money from the state’s personal protective equipment supply program, which is funded by the federal CARES Act, they were able to ramp up distribution.

“It’s almost like a hurricane, but a healthcare hurricane that kind of hit us abruptly and so we kind of all worked together and we did our part to join in and assist where we could both with our community and trying to survive as best as we could,” Hashisaka said.

Kauai Kookie was one of 36 small businesses to receive a chunk of government funds.

Big Island natural hygiene company, Protection For Humanity, was another recipient and used their grant to generate hundreds of gallons of hand sanitizer daily.

“We’ve got assembly line,” said Protection For Humanity co-owner Ginger Hall.

“We’ve got conveyor belts, we’ve got pallets, we’ve got packing. We have everything we need to get this stuff done and move it instantly out of the warehouse.”

State Sen. Glenn Wakai, one of the proponents of the grant program, says the crisis proved the capability and flexibility of manufacturers and inspired lawmakers to look for new ways to encourage the purchase of locally-made products.

“I think the pandemic showed us the foolishness of us being a one trick pony in this town, which is all tourism and that we need to have other pillars,” said Wakai, chairman of the Senate’s Economic Development and Tourism committee.

“Tourism will always be a driver for our economy, but it can’t be the only driver.”

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