Isle residents who are past due on rent and mortgages will have another two months before Gov. David Ige plans to lift the state’s ban on evictions in early August.
Ige extended the eviction moratorium for another 60 days through his latest COVID-19 emergency proclamation, issued Monday.
“We will extend the eviction moratorium one more time in the next emergency proclamation for another 60 days, but our intent is to end the eviction moratorium at the end of that proclamation,” Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii livestream Monday.
The postponement of expirations for driver’s licenses, state IDs and instructional permits will also expire in August.
“If current trends hold, I expect both the eviction moratorium and the driver’s licensing provisions to expire in August,” Ige said in a statement. “We’ve learned a lot about acting with care, and I am hopeful these lessons will carry us forward.”
Ige’s office also announced:
>> When the state achieves a 60% vaccination rate, social gatherings of 25 people will be allowed indoors and 75 people outdoors.
Restaurants would be allowed to seat up to 75% capacity following the same indoor and outdoor crowd sizes.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green’s office said Monday that Hawaii could reach a 60% vaccination rate by July 1.
Brooks Baehr, spokesman for the state Department of Health’s COVID-19 response, said Hawaii could reach a vaccination rate of 70% by early August, based on the state continuing to vaccinate 50,000 people a week. If the number of vaccinations grows to 60,000 shots per week, Hawaii could see a 70% vaccination rate by late July, Baehr said.
>> All social distancing restrictions will end once the state achieves a 70% vaccination rate, although the state Department of Health could establish new COVID-19 rules.
Incentives to get vaccinated can be found at higot vaccinated.com.
“As Hawai‘i’s public health outcomes improve and our economic situation appears to be stabilizing, I am ending several of the emergency provisions that have been in place for over a year,” Ige said in his statement. “By August, I hope the public health situation will allow me to do the same for others. We can get there if people become informed about their safe and effective vaccination options and choose to get their injections. Remember — the state pushed back the Aug. 15 roll out of the Safe Travels program to Oct. 15. While challenging at the time, it was necessary.”
Ige’s latest emergency proclamation coincides with a resurgence in isle tourism.
The governor said that with the growing economy, residents should be moving off unemployment and into jobs.
Ige is encouraging employers to report any job offers to the state that were rejected by people receiving unemployment benefits.
Ige is “asking them to let us know if they make a job offer that’s declined to report that back to us … and we can go to those who are continuing to claim unemployment and tell them these people are offering jobs, and you really ought to be looking at those areas,” Ige told Spotlight Hawaii. “We want willing and able workers to be able to find employment with the many business that are looking to hire people.”
Ige also said “significant” rent and mortgage relief programs remain available, and encouraged struggling renters and homeowners to seek mediation on their overdue housing payments.
At the same time, the state is looking to fill “front line” jobs such as those dealing with unemployment insurance, food stamps and Medicaid.
“There are a lot of needs that the state is providing benefits for that we need workers to be able to deliver the services,” Ige said.
While evictions have been banned by Ige for over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic strangled Hawaii tourism, renters and people who pay mortgages would be required to cover their missing payments unless they reach agreement with their landlords or lenders.
Ige faces a deadline later this month to announce any potential bills he plans to veto, and said he’s looking at ways to avoid budget cuts to the University of Hawaii, especially a planned 13% cut at UH Manoa that he said would lead to layoffs and program cuts, along with opposition to changing the way the Hawaii Tourism Authority is funded and would allow counties to increase hotel taxes — which Ige said already make isle room rates among the highest in the nation.
“It’s really not the greatest time to be increasing taxes in that sector,” Ige said. “We really want to get them back on their feet.”
Allowing counties to increase their transient accommodations taxes also “really drives people away from permitted and authorized hotels and into illegal vacation rentals,” Ige said. “It makes it a lot more difficult to manage the visitors that we’re trying to attract.”
But Ige reiterated that he is in favor of looking at ways to reduce tourist impacts at some of Hawaii’s most popular destinations, including potentially restricting the number of visitors.
“We can deliver a better experience for residents and visitors alike if we are willing to manage the numbers attending these locations,” Ige said.
Potential changes could include traffic management, creating no-parking areas, imposing parking fees or “really limiting the time that someone can park at a location,” Ige said. “That is all something that we are looking to expand into all of those areas that have too many visitors.”
Staff writer Sophie Cocke contributed to this report.