After vetoing a plan to add $100 in additional weekly state unemployment benefits, Gov. David Ige said Monday that he would consider using the funds when a new round of $300 in weekly federal unemployment payments runs out.
Ige said he instructed the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to get the additional $300 in weekly federal payments into the hands of furloughed or laid-off workers “as quickly as possible while maintaining the program’s integrity and protecting against fraud and abuse.”
People in Hawaii and across the country — including millions idled by COVID-19’s effect on the economy — saw an additional $600 in weekly federal unemployment benefits disappear a month ago while Congress argued whether — or how much — to extend the added benefit.
Over the weekend, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that Hawaii workers who were unemployed due to COVID-19 would receive $300 in additional weekly benefits.
Ige on Monday did not say how long he expected the new round of benefits to last but said the funds are limited and he would consider using the money he vetoed as a potential new source of additional unemployment payments.
“Our intention is to see how far we get with this (FEMA) program,” Ige said.
In July, as the federal government’s $600 weekly benefit was scheduled to expire, Ige used a line item veto on Senate Bill 126 to eliminate $321 million in spending, including a provision that would have added $100 in state weekly unemployment benefits to make up for the loss of the $600 federal payment.
An unemployed worker in Hawaii is eligible for a maximum of $648 in weekly state unemployment benefits.
Ige made his comments on the Monday deadline to announce his intention to veto six bills this year, which are:
>> HB 1523, which would buy devices for schools with student populations of 50% or greater who received reduced price lunch through the end of the year. Ige said the bill was unnecessary because his discretionary funds already provided $31 million for the same purpose.
>> HB 1846, which would mandate energy efficiency measures at state facilities and buildings. Ige said the state is already working on programs in the bill and the wording could expose the state to lawsuits and potentially allow contractors who get paid for work to also receive tax credits, along with other concerns.
>> HB 2124, which Ige said he understood the intent was to prohibit lobbying by the governor, lieutenant governor and cabinet for a year after leaving their positions. But he said the bill also would make it hard to fill volunteer boards and commission because the prohibition also would apply to working professionals and contractors, especially those on licensing boards.
>> SB 2206, which would allow the state Board of Land and Natural Resources to issue revocable month-to-month permits for homeless shelters on state land during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ige said his COVID-19 emergency proclamation already allows for the intent of the bill.
>> SB 2523, which would use state funds to continue Hawaii’s only female work furlough program known as YWCA Fernhurst. Ige said the bill is unnecessary because the Department of Public Safety is in the process of awarding a new contract to continue the program.
>> SB 2638, which would create a pilot program designed to strengthen the government’s response to domestic violence. But Ige said he had “grave concerns” because the bill could allow certain offenders to own and possess a firearm. “Unfortunately, this bill is flawed,” he said.
Ige emphasized that his announcement of his intention to veto the bills does not ensure that he will actually veto them, saying they are just being reviewed.
He has until Sept. 15 to decide, or possibly allow any of them to become law without his signature.
In a statement, House Speaker Scott Saiki said, “The House Democratic Caucus will meet to discuss the governor’s list. We will also consult with the Senate leadership concerning the possibility of convening an override session if any bills are actually vetoed.
“If an override session is not held, any vetoed measures can be reintroduced in the 2021 legislative session. We will use this interim to address the governor’s objections to vetoed bills.”