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Hawaii to delay state furloughs after virus relief bill passes

Gov. David Ige on Wednesday said the passage of a new coronavirus relief bill by the U.S. Congress this week has prompted him to delay the implementation of state worker furloughs previously due to begin on Jan. 1.

Ige wrote in an email to state employees that he wasn’t able to say when furloughs would begin, adding “this is a very fluid situation.”

The U.S. House and Senate passed a $900 billion relief measure this week. But shortly afterward, President Donald Trump signaled he disagreed with the legislation. On Tuesday, he called on lawmakers to increase direct payments for most Americans from $600 to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples, a boost most Republicans strongly oppose.

The governor said he was hopeful the bill would become law soon.

“I know this uncertainty makes things difficult for you and your families,” Ige said in his email. “We are continuing to monitor the latest information and will provide an update as soon as we can.”

Earlier this month, Ige said he would furlough most state employees to help plug a $1.4 billion hole the pandemic has blown open in the annual state budget.

About 10,000 state workers would have to stay home two days a month under the plan, resulting in about a 9% salary cut. The state Department of Education released modified furlough plans for its more than 20,000 employees, taking into account the academic calendar to minimize the affect the days off would have on student instruction.

Unions representing state workers have vowed to take unspecified measures stop the unilateral implementation of furloughs.

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