State officials on Wednesday announced a host of efforts intended to ease the financial blow from the new coronavirus.
The plans include ensuring benefits continue for low-income residents while state government and nonprofit groups work with private lenders to help idled workers.
The coronavirus pandemic, Gov. David Ige said, has created a “challenge and burden for everyone across Hawaii.”
A statewide, mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors and returning residents was scheduled to begin at midnight, Ige reminded the public.
He thanked the “entire community for really taking the message of social distancing to heart.”
COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has yet to peak in the islands. But heads of critical state departments on Wednesday announced a series of efforts intended to keep services flowing, especially to those hardest hit by job losses and cutbacks.
>> Deferral of mortgage payments made directly to the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for six months, starting on April 9.
>> Continuation of programs including child care and adult protective services — “from keiki to kupuna” — including food stamps, child care and processing of new applications from people likely to need a wide array of help as the economic shutdown continues.
>> Extension of deadlines until August for graduating high school seniors to apply for University of Hawaii four-year campuses. UH community college students can apply up to the first day of instruction.
In past economic downturns, UH community colleges have seen their enrollments soar as residents go back to school.
“You can’t really beat the opportunity available across the UH system,” UH President David Lassner told reporters on a conference call today.
>> Continuing efforts to find alternative distribution sites, including possibly Aloha Stadium, to take the load off of retailers for in-demand goods such as toilet paper and cleaning products, and especially to allow access for kupuna.
Asked about media reports that Ige had ordered Cabinet officials to sideline Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a Hawaii island emergency room physician, from Hawaii’s coronavirus response, Ige said, “I have not made any such orders or directives.”
“My overriding priority is to protect the health and safety of Hawaii’s people,” Ige said.
He called “everything else” an “unnecessary distraction.”
Green, as Ige’s “health care liaison,” is in charge of the state’s readiness to treat an expected surge in coronavirus cases, Ige said.
Green is responsible for evaluating Hawaii’s supply of equipment to deal with the expected surge in cases, including ventilators and personal protective equipment and finding additional equipment sources, Ige said.
“I welcome the advice and suggestions from Lt. Gov. Green,” Ige said.
Ige said that Hawaii’s medical response to the coronavirus pandemic is being led by state Health Director Bruce Anderson and state epidemiologist Sarah Park, who “are all trained epidemiologists.”