Mike McCartney, director of Hawaii State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, joined the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii to talk about the economic impact of the coronavirus on the state economy.
“Hawaii is going to be one of the last states to recover according to Moody’s Analytics, that just came out yesterday,” he said.
Before the pandemic, McCartney says tourists brought in roughly $50 million dollars a day to the state of Hawaii, so figuring out how to bring some of that spending back in a safe way is critical.
“We’re trying to find that right balance of keeping people safe and making sure we have an economy that can sustain all of us,” he said.
McCartney, who previously served as the head of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said he does not expect a full scale reopening of transpacific travel until November or December, but that does not rule out smaller, more controlled efforts, like travel bubbles.
“I think the international market like Japan is one important that maybe we could do it together, and have a small bubble and start to expand it, and then show everyone that this is how you do it, and then continue to grow from that,” he said. “I think it’s, go slow to go fast.”
McCartney said the state has received several substantial grants through the CARES Act, including one for $30 million. He says the first $10 million of that will be going toward training programs to help people who have lost their jobs shift into new careers.
“These ideas came up from people in the business community, supported by the Legislature. So you’ll hear that announcement coming out shortly, that we’re going to be paying people to do that, as they retrain,” he explained.
He said there is also an initiative to support Hawaii’s fishing industry, and a third initiative supporting the state’s high tech entity, HCDC, to help local companies manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE).
“If we can start producing our own material, then that might be a strategic advantage for us, and so the legislature has given us money for that. So we’re gonna start implementing that in the weeks and months to come.”
McCartney said he is also hoping that more federal money comes Hawaii’s way, for sectors like construction, through infrastructure project funding or building more affordable housing.
“We see the urgency. We know can’t hang on, so we’re hoping also that other relief comes in, like federal money,” he said.
Watch the replay above.
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday and Wednesday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation about the economy. Click here to watch previous conversations.