Coronavirus in Hawai‘i: State Talks Pay Cuts for State Employees, Online Help for Unemployment Applicants and Traditional Graduation Ceremonies are Canceled
Your daily update on everything you need to know related to COVID-19 on April 15.
Thirteen new COVID-19 cases bring today’s total to 530. Eleven are on O‘ahu, including a case at West Loch Elderly Village in ‘Ewa Beach. The state Department of Health says the person is not on property and believes there is no risk to residents. Hale Makua Health Services on Maui reported two positive cases: a home health patient and a nursing home resident who was treated at Maui Memorial Medical Center.
The state discusses 20% pay cuts for public workers and teachers. Gov. David Ige says they are expecting to have to cut $1.5 billion from the state budget over the next 15 months as a result of tax shortfalls. No decisions have been made yet. Ige did say money from the federal CARES Act cannot be used for existing state employees and programs or to replace lost revenue. Hawai‘i State Teachers Association president Corey Rosenlee says, “Hawaiʻi already has a shortage of over 1,000 teachers. If we cut teachers’ salaries, that will force teachers to retire and our brand-new teachers to leave.” The Hawai‘i Government Employees Association is also urging the governor to find alternative actions that will not affect those already dealing with reduced hours and furloughs.
Since March 1, 273,048 unemployment claims have been filed in the state of Hawai‘i. From April 1 through 13, $21.6 million for benefit claims have been distributed to local residents. To assist with the backlog, the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has made improvement to its website including a clearer step-by-step process, three new email addresses to address specific problems users are experiencing and a web portal to help people track the status of their claims at any time.
The state Department of Education says no traditional graduation ceremonies will be held this year because of safety concerns. Instead, the DOE will have alternative commencement ceremonies for public and charter schools. Details will be announced next week.
Drive-thru COVID-19 testing will be available this weekend and early next week in three new areas. Medical Group Hawai’i will offer testing at Polynesian Cultural Center in Lā‘ie (April 18), Koko Head District Park in Hawai‘i Kai (April 20) and The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints in Wahiawā (April 22). Kakaʻako Waterfront Park will remain a testing site this Sunday. All testing will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call Premier Medical Group Hawai‘i for more information, (808) 304-8816 or (808) 367-6020.
The Hawai‘i National Guard activates more soldiers to help with medical, state and civil defense demands brought on by COVID-19. Across the state, 1,200 men and women will continue to assist with screenings at airports, police checkpoints and distribution of medical supplies.