Question: Why is the city’s Small Business Relief and Recovery Fund restricted to only businesses with a physical address, excluding thousands of us who run our business from a home office and use P.O. boxes? The only way many of our small businesses afford to operate in Honolulu’s high-cost environment is to trim back expenses and avoid fixed overhead such as rent. Almost all of my expenses are labor-related, insurance and taxes. The shutdowns have decimated my ability to generate revenue with people unable to attend events (not tourism-related), but I cannot access this small- business relief fund to help in some way to survive this pandemic-related destruction? Any assistance to help us hang on would mean the difference between survival or closing. Thank you for any guidance.
Answer: You are one of many small-business owners on Oahu to ask this or similar questions. Here’s a response from Patrick Williams, in the city’s new Office of Economic Revitalization:
“Our decision to require a physical business address was designed to support mom-and-pop shops with storefronts that are struggling with rent, utilities and costs associated with social distancing and safety requirements.
“We’ve evolved the program based on feedback from the business community since the relief fund began earlier this year. We increased the number of employees and annual revenue to allow more businesses to apply, and added farmers and small commercial fishermen to the applicant pool.
“Now, we’re discussing with business advocacy groups how to expand the program to include several home-based businesses.
“We know this is a difficult time and are providing relief options to the community. For example, a business owner or their employees can apply for the Household Hardship Relief Fund. It provides up to $2,000 a month for personal housing costs and certain utilities. It provides an additional $500 a month for child care providers recognized by the state Department of Human Services.
“A family of four can make up to $120,500 a year and qualify. We urge everyone interested in the household relief fund to visit www.honolulu.gov/dcs.”
In a followup email, you expressed thanks for the referral, said you would pursue household relief as applicable, and emphasized that you hoped the relief program specifically for small businesses would cover more of the entrepreneurs vital to Hawaii’s economic recovery.
As Williams mentioned, the program for small businesses has expanded since it was first launched. Although it’s not yet available to you, other entrepreneurs previously ineligible should check the latest updates to see whether they might now benefit. Find details at https://www.oneoahu.org/small-business.
Q: I saw something about free job training on the news but didn’t catch the details. Do you have them? It’s sinking in that my old job is never coming back.
A: There are numerous job-training programs popping up, as Hawaii slogs through its seventh month with hardly any tourists. We believe that you are referring to a new, large one run by the University of Hawaii, which is offering nearly 100 different training opportunities from now through December. Most of the classes will be taught online, through eight Oahu campuses.
To be eligible for free training, a participant must live on Oahu and their work must have been adversely affected by the pandemic, for example, by their having been laid off, furloughed or having their hours cut, according to the program’s website, oahubacktowork.com. Go there for more information, including the list of courses, and to sign up.
Registration began Monday and will end at Thanksgiving, the website says.
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