Gov. David Ige said Thursday that furloughs and layoffs of state workers are no longer necessary now that President Joe Biden has signed the American Rescue Plan, which includes $1.6 billion in assistance for Hawaii.
Ige said in a news release that the federal pandemic relief package “gives the state much needed breathing room.” While the jobs of state workers are expected to be secure, it’s not clear whether other cuts to the state’s operating budget will still be necessary.
”We must still assess all impacts of the COVID-19 relief bill before we have a clearer picture of its effect on the state budget,” said Ige.
The state’s $15.4 billion operating budget is currently being debated and amended in the Legislature.
At the end of last year, as the state was anticipating a budget deficit of more than $2 billion, Ige said the state might need to begin furloughing thousands of state workers in July. State officials had hoped that a federal bailout would prevent that.
Hawaii’s four counties are also set to receive substantial sums to help shore up their budgets. The City and County of Honolulu will receive $365 million; Hawaii County will receive $36 million; Kauai County will receive $13 million; and Maui County, $30 million.
The $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package provides sweeping assistance to state and county budgets ailing amid the economic downturn, as well as direct aid to low- and middle-income households. Qualified single taxpayers are to receive $1,400, while qualified married couples filing jointly will receive $2,800. Families also will receive $1,400 for each dependent.
The relief package also includes money to boost the pandemic health care response, education, housing and social services.
The aid expands unemployment benefits through Sept. 6 and provides $300 a week in federal funds. The federal government also will cover 100% of COBRA health insurance premiums, helping laid-off employees retain their health insurance.