Gov. David Ige on Thursday vetoed a spending plan that would have added $100 in state weekly unemployment benefits in the era of COVID-19, hoping that an embattled Congress will continue supplementing state benefits at something close to the weekly current level of $600 in additional federal aid.
The state Legislature had included $230 million in Senate Bill 126 that was intended to help mitigate the potential loss of $600 in weekly federal unemployment payments that are scheduled to end Friday while state unemployment insurance continues.
With Congress deadlocked over whether to continue the $600 weekly aid to supplement Hawaii’s state unemployment benefits for idled workers in Hawaii and across the nation, Ige said he hopes Congress comes up with a plan to continue the federal benefits at some level.
State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the state Senate special committee on COVID-19, said Ige met with lawmakers before his announcement Thursday to eliminate eight of the spending proposals contained in Senate Bill 126.
Deciding to eliminate the $230 million for $100 weekly supplemental unemployment benefits “makes sense” for now, Dela Cruz.
There is no pressure in the Senate to reconvene to try to over-ride any of Ige’s eight vetoes in SB 126 at this point, Dela Cruz said, especially because the $230 in unemployment benefits funding can still be spent by the end of the year, if necessary.
“We need to address health and safety now,” Dela Cruz said. “You don’t want people on the streets.”
Before deciding for certain whether to consider over-riding any of the vetoes in SB 126, House Speaker Scott Saiki said that House members need to meet with Senate leaders and Ige to discuss how the administration plans to use the funds that he vetoed.
“We have to review the Governor’s veto message and then discuss with the House members and Senate leadership whether to consider an override,” Saiki wrote to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “We will also meet with the Governor to discuss the specific plan for the use of the vetoed funds.”
Other line-item vetoes Ige made to SB 126 were:
>> Decrease from $90M to $70M, the appropriation out of the Emergency and Budget Reserve Fund for airport screening and health assurance security initiatives.
>> Decrease the $100M appropriation out of the Emergency and Budget Reserve Fund to $50M for housing and rental assistance and administrative costs related to the housing relief and resiliency program.
>> Decrease the $100M appropriation out of the Emergency Budget and Reserve Fund to $61M for the purchase and distribution of personal protective equipment to hospitals, childcare facilities, elderly care facilities, businesses, non-profits, and schools.
>> Decrease the $36M appropriation out of the Emergency Budget and Reserve Fund to $10M for retraining and workforce development programs.
>> Decrease the $15M appropriation out of the Emergency and Budget Reserve Fund to $10M to support emerging industries to create a supply chain for cleaning supplies and PPE.
>> Decrease the $2M appropriation out of the Emergency and Budget Reserve Fund to $1M for a public-private partnership to provide support to public high school seniors who were adversely affected by school closures in their final semester of school.
>> Decrease the $1,080,000,605 appropriation out of the Emergency and Budget Reserve Fund to $648M for deposit into the general fund.
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