The state plan would hand out free work meals to Hawaii’s unemployed

Unemployed residents and struggling restaurants in Hawaii could soon share $ 67 million in government coronavirus aid under a new state plan.

Details are yet to be publicly released by Governor David Ige’s administration, but $ 67 million in CARES Act grants the state has received was donated to a restaurant cash, according to an organization that sponsors unemployment applicants Provided card program that provides unemployment benefits partnered with state agencies to track Hawaii CARES funds.

Jill Tokuda, a Hawaii Data Collaborative official, told the House Select Committee on Economic and Financial Preparedness for COVID-19 Monday that the program could be rolled out in a week or two.

Further information could not be obtained from the governor on Tuesday, but some local restaurant owners said such a program was a creative initiative to help a severely injured industry along with the unemployed.

“We’re dying,” said Eddie Flores Jr., owner of the L&L Drive-Inn chain, of Hawaii’s restaurant industry. “Anything that could help us would be great.”

Tom Jones, co-owner of three Gyotaku restaurants and Koromo Katsu & Bistro on Oahu, said the program was a creative idea that would help two groups at the same time.

“It would help people with unemployment get food to feed their families and, in turn, increase restaurant sales to help restaurants keep lights on and keep staff busy,” he said.

Jones, former chairman of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, said half of all Hawaiian restaurants are closed, and the “lucky” ones have only a 50% drop in sales when most restaurants are taking a financial break when a 10% to 20% decrease brings-the same denominator.

“We’re staggering,” he said.

Victor Lim, the Hawaii Restaurant Association’s legal liaison and local McDonald’s franchisee, said the trade association supports the plan and hopes it gets on its way quickly.

“A program like this is really a win-win for our community,” he said. “Our restaurants are dying with this open, open (situation) on the vine. Unemployed people also need support. People have to eat. “

Lim said there might be restrictions on how the restaurant’s cash cards can be used, but he believes that people receiving unemployment benefits will use cash cards for basic food needs.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported earlier this month that Hawaii linked New York with the third worst unemployment rate in August at 12.5%, after Nevada and Rhode Island at around 13%.

The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations of Hawaii reported last week that it paid $ 3.3 billion in unemployment benefits for 179,484 claims.

According to the latest state data on Hawaii businesses, there were 3,542 restaurants and pubs nationwide in 2018, representing 11% of all Hawaiian businesses with employees. This count does not include catering services associated with hotels and other visitor accommodation.

As of July 10, the restaurant industry had its highest sustained shutdown rate in the nation since the economic damage caused by the pandemic began in March, according to an analysis by online business rating platform Yelp.

Of all types of businesses, Hawaii’s rate of permanent business closings during the reporting period was the second highest among states, the Yelp report said.

“Our economy has come to its knees,” said Lim. “We could definitely use a shot in the arm.”

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