More than $20 million in assistance for rent, utilities, child care and even cellphone and internet service for Oahu residents is waiting to be distributed by the end of the year as people continue to struggle with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell and other officials and beneficiaries on Wednesday encouraged Oahu residents to apply for the funds, especially those who have never needed help.
Some $25 million has been available since May, but Caldwell wants more people who may be eligible to apply.
Caldwell said, “The goal here is to get the money to people who need it the most.”
A drive-up application process for the Household Hardship Relief Fund is tentatively planned for Saturday in Kapolei. City officials said that hours, details and the documents that people will be need to provide will be available at oneoahu.org.
Two early, reluctant recipients of the Household Hardship Relief Program — administered through the city, Aloha United Way, the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, Helping Hands Hawaii and other organizations — encouraged residents to apply for help on Wednesday during a press conference at Ka Makana Ali‘i Mall in Kapolei.
“Auntie” Eva Galariada- Rose stood with her grandchildren to encourage others like herself who are reluctant to seek financial aid in the age of COVID-19.
Galariada-Rose, who worked for 42 years at the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Center, said she sought financial help after she was diagnosed with cancer.
“I have never asked for help from anyone,” Galariada-Rose said. “This took a lot. If this will get other people to come in and sign up and try … I beg you to come in and try. There’s no harm in trying. Why sit at home and suffer when you can come in and get some stress off you? … There’s money out here for you.”
Leejay Fernandez said, “Everyone’s going through the same situation. … It’s made a major impact for me and my kids. You’ve exhausted everything and all options. Where do you turn? … The struggle is real for a lot of people.”
Pam Witty-Oakland, director of the city’s Department of Community Services, said that initial barriers have been lowered, such as allowing recipients to have savings accounts.
“If you’ve got some savings that’s OK,” Witty-Oakland said. “We really wanted to make this easier.”
The money is intended to pay up to $2,000 per month in various expenses, in addition to another $500 per month in child care costs, Witty-Oakland said.
The funds also can be used for overdue payments and will be distributed directly to landlords and utilities, she said.