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Honolulu officials create office with $19M in federal coronavirus funds to assist with economic recovery

Honolulu officials announced today the creation of a new office to help with the city’s economic recovery due to the coronavirus.

The office, called the Office of Economic Revitalization, will replace the Office of Economic Development, said Honolulu Managing Director Roy Amemiya Jr. at a news conference at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center.

“This office is about hope,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.

Caldwell began the news conference with comments about protests happening across the country.

“We stand in solidarity with those who are peacefully protesting for social justice around our country,” Caldwell said. “We support the Black Lives Matter effort.”

The protests have been in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis last week after a white police office placed his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Caldwell said Hawaii is not immune from racism.

“We’re no more perfect than any human being,” he said. “We also express racism towards African Americans.”

He said the country has a “huge deep sickness” and that “we need healing.”

“Since it’s not coming from our national government, it starts with each of us in this room,” he said.

Other details shared about the new office at today’s news conference include:

>> The Office of Economic Revitalization will operate out of temporary office space at the Blaisdell Center with a “Recovery Hub” to help residents and businesses with a target reopen date of July 1.

>> The above office will use $19 million or 5% of the city’s first portion of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding. It will coordinate recovery work with state agencies, businesses and non-profit agencies to tackle the economic challenges.

>> The office will focus on three areas: ensuring COVID-19 testing is widely available and business practices are safe; directly assisting Oahu residents and businesses with finding jobs and executing programs funded by federal coronavirus relief act money; and developing and transitioning Oahu to a more diversified and resilient economy.

>> The office will be a more robust development office to spur community investment, support local business and foster new enterprises instead of over-reliance on tourism.

>> Its focus will be on local small businesses, health care, innovation and technology, resilient infrastructure, housing and redevelopment, green energy and transportation, sustainable agriculture, regenerative tourism and the film industry.

>> The City Call Center, COVID Response Email team, and COVID outreach staff will move to the Blaisdell and become part of the Office of Economic revitalization.

>>The city will immediately hire up to 15 unemployed people to serve in COVID-19-response roles, such as in the call center or with email responses.

Watch the news conference above.

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