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Hawaii in line to get $1.7B from federal coronavirus relief package, Sen. Brian Schatz says

COURTESY U.S. SENATE TV / FEBRUARY 3 U.S. Sen Brian Schatz (D, Hawaii), shown here speaking on the Senate floor in February, said today that the $900 billion <a href="https://www.staradvertiser.com/coronavirus/" target="_blank">coronavirus pandemic</a> relief bill agreed to by Congress over the weekend includes at least $1.7 billion in funding for Hawaii.
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U.S. Sen Brian Schatz (D, Hawaii), shown here speaking on the Senate floor in February, said today that the $900 billion coronavirus pandemic relief bill agreed to by Congress over the weekend includes at least $1.7 billion in funding for Hawaii.

The massive $900 billion coronavirus pandemic relief bill agreed to by Congress over the weekend includes at least $1.7 billion in funding for Hawaii, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said today.

Schatz said the package, which is the second-largest emergency relief package in U.S. history, includes unemployment assistance funding, and aid for small businesses, schools, vaccine distribution, hospitals, and health care workers.

“Help is on the way. This relief package will help those who’ve lost their job or can’t make rent. It provides more money for businesses, and gives our state, hospitals, and health care providers more resources to distribute the vaccine and fight this pandemic,” he said in a news release. “While it’s not enough, and we still have more work to do, this will provide help immediately.”

The package includes additional money for Hawaii housing, roads, public transit, infrastructure, and Native Hawaiian health and education programs.

Key provisions in the package, according to Schatz’s office, are:

Unemployment assistance – extension of unemployment insurance to help those who have lost their jobs or are experiencing reduced incomes.

>> At least $200 million in estimated funding will go to helping unemployed Hawaii workers.

>> Available to self-employed individuals, part-time workers, independent contractors, and gig workers, including ride-sharing drivers.

>> Covers those who are sick, quarantined, furloughed, or whose family circumstances keep them from working or reduce their pay as a result of the coronavirus outbreak or government containment efforts.

>> Aid will cover salaries up to about $65,000 for 3 months with an additional $300 per week.

Rent relief and eviction moratorium – An estimated $200 million to help Hawaii residents who lost their job or saw a significant reduction in income due to the pandemic to make rent.

>>Provides a 30-day extension of the CDC’s current eviction moratorium to January 31, 2021.

>> At least 90 percent of the funds must be used for payment of future rent, back rent, utilities and home energy bills, and related housing expenses; and up to 10 percent of the funds are available for housing counseling or other stability services.

>> Includes an additional $2.4 million for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

Small businesses and non-profits – provides $325 billion nationally for small businesses, including restaurants, hotels, live venues, and nonprofits.

>> $284 billion in partially forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to small businesses and non-profits to maintain existing workforce and help pay for other expenses like rent, mortgage, and utilities.

>> The hardest-hit small businesses—those with 300 or fewer employees that have sustained a 25 percent revenue loss in any quarter of 2020—can receive a second forgivable PPP loan.

>> Forgivable expenses are expanded to include supplier costs, investments in facility modifications, and purchases of personal protective equipment.

>> Business expenses paid for with PPP loans are now tax deductible, consistent with Congressional intent in the CARES Act.

>>Expanded eligibility for nonprofits, local newspapers, and TV and radio broadcasters.

>> PPP forgiveness process simplified for loans of $150,000 or less, eliminating red tape and making loan forgiveness easier for small businesses.

>> $20 billion for Small Business Administration (SBA) emergency grant advances of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief for small business operating costs.

>> $15 billion for grants to independent live venue operators, including eligible independent movie theatres and museums, affected by stay-at-home orders.

Vaccine distribution and procurement – provides nearly $32 billion nationally, including $4.5 billion directly to states and localities and an estimated $35 million to Hawaii, to help distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines.

Testing and contact tracing – provides $22.4 billion nationally for testing and contact tracing, including at least $150 million in estimated funding to Hawaii. This funding will expand capacity for COVID-19 testing to effectively monitor and suppress COVID–19, conduct surveillance and contact tracing activities, and support other COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Hospitals and health care providers – provides $3 billion nationally, including an estimated $5 million for Hawaii providers, to help health care providers through the Provider Relief Fund, extends relief from the Medicare sequester through March 2021, and increases payments under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for all services by 3.75 percent for 2021.

Mental health – includes more than $4 billion nationally for several mental health programs, including the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant, the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant, and suicide prevention programs.

Direct cash payments – provides a one-time cash payment to millions of Americans.

>> More than $700 million is estimated to go to Hawaii residents.

>> Individuals will get $600 (joint filers get $1,200) plus $600 per child.

>> Benefits start to phase out for those with incomes exceeding $150,000 for married couples, $75,000 for singles, and $112,500 for single parents.

>> Payments will not go to single filers earning more than $87,000; head-of-household filers with one child, more than $136,500; and more than $174,000 for joint filers with no children.

>> Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries will be eligible for this cash payment.

>> Expands direct payments to households with mixed immigration status, retroactive to the CARES Act.

Education – provides at least an estimated $200 million for Hawaii schools, which can be used to support teacher salaries, including:

>> An estimated $4.4 million for Hawaii in the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, which provides both K-12 schools and institutions of higher education with emergency assistance funding;

>> An estimated $178 million for Hawaii in Elementary and Secondary School (K-12) Emergency Relief Funding with eligibility for Native Hawaiian Education Programs specifically included; and

>> Access to additional funding from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund to support Hawaii’s colleges and universities; and

>> At least $20 million in estimated funding for Hawaii to support Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions.

Child care – $10 billion for grants for child care providers, including an estimated $25 million or more for Hawaii.

Native-serving community lenders – provides $25 million nationally in grants to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) serving Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, and other Native American communities across the country to help them withstand the economic impacts of the pandemic.

Transportation – provides at least $128 million in estimated funding for Hawaii to support transportation and airport services including:

>> $60 million to ensure that transit services in Hawaii continue operating with enhanced safety procedures for passengers and staff;

>> $42 million to continue funding for critical highway projects;

>> $26 million for Hawaii airports. Funds can be used for operations and expenses related to coronavirus safety procedures as well as a set-aside for aide to in-terminal airport concessions and other service providers;

>> Access to $2 billion in national funding to transportation service companies, such as tour bus operators. At least 60 percent of the funding must be used to retain or rehire staff; and

>> Access to $15 billion in national funding to airlines for workforce salaries and benefits to prevent layoffs.

Coronavirus Relief Fund extension – includes a one-year extension of the CARES Act’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, providing state and county governments with more time to expend their allocations. The new deadline is December 31, 2021.

Broadband internet – provides at least $7 billion nationally to improve broadband infrastructure, expand access high-speed internet, including:

>> At least $30 million in funding for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands;

>> $3.2 billion nationally in an Emergency Broadband Benefit to help low-income Americans get connected or remain connected to broadband;

>> $250 million nationally for a new telehealth pilot program;

>> $300 million national grant program to fund broadband in rural areas; and

>>$65 million to improve U.S. broadband maps.

Food and nutrition programs – provides $13 billion nationally for nutrition programs, including an increase of 15 percent in monthly SNAP benefits to ensure that all Americans receive the food they need. The bill also provides funding for food banks, food pantries, school meal programs, and other nutrition programs.

Agricultural producers and fisheries – provides $13 billion nationally to support agriculture, fisheries, and rural communities, including:

>> $9.7 billion for assistance to farmers and ranchers, including specialty crops, floriculture, and seafood processors;

>> $1.5 billion to purchase food, agricultural products, and seafood for individuals in need; and

>> $300 million for assistance to commercial, recreational, and tribal fisheries.

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