Those several thousand people receiving or scheduled to receive $500 debit cards from the city now have until Jan. 31 to spend the money to pay for food and other necessities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, city officials said Tuesday.
Amy Asselbaye, executive director of the city Office of Economic Revitalization, told reporters that individuals are still receiving their City Cards under a program first announced by the Caldwell administration Nov. 30.
As of Tuesday, 2,484 cards have been activated and more than $1.1 million has been expended at groceries and convenience stores, Asselbaye said. “That’s helping folks to buy food and basic household necessities, as well as getting some additional money flowing into our economy and some of our local stores.”
That’s more than triple the 751 cards that Asselbaye reported as having been activated as of Thursday.
Initially, the money needed to be spent by Sunday because the money is a slice of the $387 million in federal CARES Act funding distributed to the city.
Over the weekend that spending deadline was extended until Tuesday.
With the extension of the CARES Act, however, Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Chief of Staff Gary Kurokawa have determined that those in receipt of the cards or yet to receive them now have until the end of January.
“Some cards are still arriving,” Asselbaye said, noting that some 1,200 cards have not yet been activated.
The cards were mailed to those who are already participating in the city’s coronavirus-related Household Hardship Relief Fund, a program that gives families up to $2,000 a month for rent, mortgage, child care and some utilities. They are also being sent to up to 2,000 additional families and individuals who participate in other city-sponsored financial hardship programs.
Approximately $3 million in federal CARES Act funds was originally allocated.
A 70-year-old retiree who lives in a Section 8 apartment building in Moiliili who has been corresponding with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser said she was told she would receive a card but that she had yet to receive it as of Tuesday, despite learning that it has been sent out Dec. 11.
The woman said she and a representative with vendor MoCaFi determined it may not have arrived because the envelope did not include her apartment number but that the MoCaFi representative told her she could not be issued a new card. A person answering the city hotline, however, told her the problem was that the U.S. Postal Service has been slow to deliver the cards due to the holiday mailing rush, and advised her to contact her post office.
To activate the card, recipients should go to oneoahu.org/city-card or call the activation hotline at 877-827-7727 or 800-342-7374 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Recipients also can call the city’s call center at 768-CITY.
Kurokawa, Caldwell’s chief of staff, told reporters that $300 million of the $387 million in CARES money received in April has been paid out while the remaining $87 million has been allocated and ready to be spent.
Of the funds, 54% went to small-business relief, Kurokawa said. Public health and safety and economic recovery were the two other major priorities, he said.