Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced today a city program to help with the cost of basic necessities for residents struggling economically during the coronavirus pandemic.
Caldwell said the program, called the COVID-19 “Hardship Relief for Individuals” program, will start May 18 with $25 million in seed money from the federal coronavirus aid bill.
Through a private-public partnership, the program will work with nonprofits, including Aloha United Way, Helping Hands Hawaii, and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, to provide money to the hardest-hit individuals, specifically to help pay for rent, utilities and child care.
Caldwell repeated that the efforts, including another private-public partnership that is distributing food throughout Oahu were “a kakou thing,” where the community comes together.
“We are putting people first here and focusing on the health and economic viability of the residents of the City and County of Honolulu,” he said.
The nonprofit partners, who are already working with families, will offer reimbursements of up to $1,000 per month for eligible household expenses, and up to $500 a month for childcare expenses, for up to six months.
As of today, Caldwell noted more than 134,000 people are unemployed on Oahu.
“We used to lead the nation, the City and County of Honolulu, in terms of low unemployment,” said Caldwell. “And we now lead the nation in some of the highest unemployment — in fact depression-level type of unemployment. We all know someone who’s been impacted. They’re our neighbors, they’re our friends, they’re people we knew through other parts of our life.”
Families of four who make more than $120,500 can qualify for the reimbursements, according to Honolulu Department of Community Services director Pamela Witty-Oakland, but must demonstrate hardship through supporting documentation.
Most of the application process can be done online, as long as documents can be uploaded, she said. Reimbursements will also be available for those making mortgage payments, she said.
More specific details will be posted to oneoahu.org.
Caldwell said the program will be tweaked and improved where needed, and that the city would increase funding for it, going forward, if necessary.
“Today is the first phase for the City and County of Honolulu of using our CARES money to help those who need it most,” said Caldwell, adding that he would be announcing more programs to assist residents next week.
The news conference took place at Seagulls Schools’ Early Education Center on Alapai Street near downtown Honolulu.
Watch the news conference above.