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Hawaii Restaurant Card recipients spent roughly $70M

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Approximately $5 million left over from unused balances on Hawaii Restaurant Cards has been added to the state unemployment insurance loan.

Recipients of the Hawaii Restaurant Card spent about $70 million, according to Gwen Yamamoto Lau, program administrator, and generated more than 1.7 million transactions.

The Mastercard debit cards, which were issued about three months ago to qualified recipients in Hawaii, were each loaded with $500 to help the unemployed as well as boost restaurant sales.

The roughly $75 million state economic stimulus was supported by federal coronavirus aid funds, and was mailed to Hawaii residents who opened an initial unemployment insurance claim with the state on or after March 1 and certified that their job loss was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with other qualifications.

A total of 148,576 Hawaii Restaurant Cards were issued.

The cards, which could be used to purchase food and non-alcoholic beverages at eating establishments, helped more than 4,200 restaurants, bakeries, caterers, farmers, and others statewide.

Recipients had until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 15 to use the cards, with any remaining balance to be returned to the state.

The transactions resulted in an economic multiplier output of $151.2 million for the state, according to Lau, while generating state tax revenue of about $8.9 million.

In addition, the cards helped create or retain more than 1,100 jobs and helped displaced workers statewide.

“While the unfortunate reality is that the restaurant industry and its supply chain also saw a number of business closures, we’ve received an overwhelming response from restauranteurs, employees, customers, vendors and the community that the Hawaii Restaurant Card Program alleviated a lot of concern and apprehension during a time of uncertainty brought on by this pandemic,” said Lau in a statement. “So really, this program not only proved economic success for the restaurant industry and its supply chain, but provided hope for the industry going into 2021.”

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