LISTEN: Rep. Gabbard Talks Small Business Relief, Need for Federal Assistance in Hawai‘i
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) hosted her latest tele-town hall meeting on Wednesday afternoon. She was joined by Sherry Menor-McNamara, the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai‘i’s President and CEO, to discuss the impact on businesses and resources available to assist them, and Darin Leong, an employment law attorney, who has worked with Hawai‘i community leaders to raise awareness about relief programs available to employers and employees.
“This pandemic has drawn attention to the reality that our state must be able to rely on more than just tourism for our economy to increase our resilience and ability to withstand downturns in tourism, for any reason. We need a diverse and sustainable economy that is good for our people and our ʻāina. We have a plethora of innovative, small business entrepreneurs — including amongst our farmers — who are eager to reshape a strong, sustainable, and resilient future for Hawai’i,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
Rep. Gabbard opened the town hall by noting that Wednesday was national Nurse Appreciation Day. Nurses remain on the frontline of the fight against the coronavirus. She urged everyone to thank the nurses they know.
The State of Hawai‘i has indicated it is considering cutting public employee salaries by 20% to cover the budget shortfall due to the coronavirus. But, many of these employees — including first responders, public health professionals, and teachers — have worked through the pandemic. Rep. Gabbard emphasized that the next round of emergency funding will be focused on helping state and local governments cover the catastrophic losses they have had due to COVID-19 to help protect these workers.
Sherry Menor-McNamara, the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai‘i’s President and CEO, noted the pandemic’s huge impact on the economy and families in Hawai‘i. No business has been immune, but small and local businesses have been especially hard-hit. She emphasized the help that is available to businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs, and answered questions about how to access those resources, and how businesses should adjust to the reality of the crisis. She noted that COVID-19 had an immediate impact on businesses, leading to drastic job losses and while most businesses hope to rehire employees, unemployment will still be high in the immediate aftermath of the crisis.
Darin Leong answered questions from individuals and small business owners about navigating the funding that is still available to support them. He thanked Rep. Gabbard and the Hawai‘i Congressional Delegation for their work in securing additional funding for small businesses, noting that in the first five days after receiving this additional funding, Hawai‘i was able to get help to 8,000 small businesses, with loan sizes averaging $54,000.
He fielded questions regarding the different state and federal unemployment insurance programs. Rep. Gabbard noted that her staff has been following up with constituents to provide additional direction to those seeking UI assistance.