Maui Coronavirus Updates

House Committee on COVID-19 Discusses Balance of Economy and Health Concerns

May 12, 2020, 8:50 AM HST
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Photo credit: Hawaii House Democrats

The House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness on Monday discussed the need to reopen the economy as soon as possible while adhering to health and safety guidelines.

Major General Kenneth Hara, Director of the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency said he is concerned about civil unrest if economic conditions continue to decline; and asked for a consensus to determine when the state will move from one risk level to the next.

Executives with the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, said if the economy does not move toward recovery by the end of June, there are concerns about how laid off workers will provide health care for themselves and their families once unemployment insurance funds run out.

Carl Bonham, Executive Director of University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization (UHERO), said one important reason to reopen the local and tourism economies quickly is because of the negative effect a closed economy will have on high school and college graduates trying to enter the workforce.

Bonham said during the recession of the early 2000s, young people suffered because good jobs were very hard to find. He said the same could happen to new graduates now and that could negatively affect their earning potential for the rest of their lives.  He suggested that a unified state/county plan for reopening the economy be finalized quickly.

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Deborah Zysman, Executive Director of the Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network, gave a report to the committee on the COVID-19 impacts on Hawaii’s child care sector.Zysman said child care was in crisis before the pandemic hit and that there is no economic recovery without child care.

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Zysman said parents cannot return to work without somewhere to take their children and with 70 percent of child care facilities now closed and the reopening of public schools uncertain, economic recovery will be impossible.

The report details child care needs and economic impacts, CARE Act funding requests, and short- and long-term recommendations to solve the problem.

Speaker Saiki asked House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti to work with Representative Linda Ichiyama, the Department of Human Services, and the child care providers to refine recommendations for next week’s briefing.

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