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Kokua Line: How can I get cheaper internet service?

  • JAMM AQUINO / JULY 7
                                The state’s Safe Travels program, implemented at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, began accepting vaccination documents from the United States and its territories for travelers seeking exemptions from Hawaii’s quarantine rules on July 8. Safe Travels Special Projects Administrator Sherilyn Kajiwara is shown during a news conference at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

    JAMM AQUINO / JULY 7

    The state’s Safe Travels program, implemented at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, began accepting vaccination documents from the United States and its territories for travelers seeking exemptions from Hawaii’s quarantine rules on July 8. Safe Travels Special Projects Administrator Sherilyn Kajiwara is shown during a news conference at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

Question: To be able to work from home, I must have internet, and I pay for it. I mostly do bookkeeping on a freelance basis. I have not been completely unemployed during the pandemic, but I did lose clients — I never made much money and I still don’t. The office manager for one client mentioned free internet if I qualify. She said I should look into it, but I don’t know anything about this program. Do you?

Answer: Yes, although it provides a monthly discount, not necessarily free service. She’s probably referring to the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, a federal program to help households afford internet service. You don’t have to have lost your job during the pandemic to qualify, but your household must demonstrate financial need.

The Federal Communications Commission says a household is eligible if any member meets at least one of the following criteria:

>> Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (see the guidelines at 808ne.ws/povgui) or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid or Lifeline.

>> Was approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year.

>> Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year.

>> Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since Feb. 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers.

>> Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

Qualifying households get a discount on broadband service of $50 or $75 a month (depending on where they live).

For more information, including how to apply, go to www.fcc.gov/broadband benefit or getemergency broadband.org.

Q: We used to live in Kaimuki but had to move to Washington state last year when my employer relocated me. My daughter can’t wait to get back to see her friends. She is vaccinated, but I told her she can’t just hop on the plane the next day. Is that right?

A: Yes, that’s correct, if she intends to use a vaccine exception to avoid quarantining in Hawaii when she arrives.

Hawaii’s vaccine exception applies to domestic passengers fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the United States. Fully vaccinated means it’s been at least 15 days since the passenger’s completion dose.

Hawaii’s COVID-19 portal supplies this example: “15 days are added to the date of your last Pfizer or Mo­der­na shot or your single Johnson & Johnson shot. So if you received your last shot in New York on June 1, 2021, your 15th day (and day you are considered fully vaccinated) would be June 16, 2021, in Hawaii.”

Q: When my business closes permanently, will I get back any of the contributions I made to unemployment? My former employees found new jobs quickly, so I don’t think they exhausted their benefits.

A: No, according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. “Employers have no claim or right to the contributions credited to their (unemployment insurance) account (HRS Section 383-64 (b)). As in any insurance policy, the premiums paid are not returned but remain in a pooled fund to pay workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own and meet all eligibility conditions,” the department says on one of its websites, hawaii unemploymentinfo.com.

Auwe

It would seem that Waterfront Park is accessible to disabled visitors, but the decorative brick stone pathway and the gravel paths from the parking lot to the ocean are very rough and uncomfortable for wheelchair users. Why does government build expensive but impractical hardscape? It would be cheaper to build smooth, comfortable walkways and paths that the disabled could also use. — J.R.


Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email kokualine@staradvertiser.com.


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