By: T. Jeffersonian
On Tuesday, February 9, 2021, Governor David Ige gave a status update on the Hawaii financial picture. His latest update also provided news on a large Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant and emergency rent assistance. Governor Ige reported that state revenues are not predicted to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024; however, the state is continuing to monitor its revenues, is advocating for federal funding, and is doing all that it can to provide much-needed programs to help people in need.
Rent and Utilities Assistance
Governor Ige also announced that the state is moving ahead with an Emergency Rent Assistance program fed by federal funds received as part of the December 2020 federal stimulus. In December 2020, Hawaii received $200 million for rent assistance and utilities. The distribution of funds is currently waiting on state government agreements related to the administration of this program. Households that are unable to pay rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to receive assistance. Up to 12 months of assistance will be available with priority given to households where a member has been unemployed. The State says utilities will be included in this assistance.
On Tuesday, the Governor announced that FEMA will be providing funding to the state for vaccination programs. Hawaii has requested a $175 million grant. The Governor said FEMA has approved Hawaii’s request but that he is still waiting for the funding to be approved. The current challenge is that Hawaii is simply not getting enough Covid 19 vaccines. The state continues to only receive nearly half of the vaccines that Hawaii has the ability to administer. The White House is working with vaccine manufacturers to get more vaccines distributed to the states, but until this successfully happens, the state vaccination program will be significantly slower than it could be.
Governor Ige is cautiously optimistic about economic recovery but he warns that the plan is fragile. Until additional federal aid is approved, Hawaii must be prudent and plan wisely. If President Biden’s relief package does pass, Governor Ige said the state will be able to increase funding for public school education, fund Unemployment Insurance, and repay the $700 million Unemployment Insurance loan from the United States Department of Labor. The possible $1.9 trillion Biden Stimulus Package will also eliminate program budget cuts and help Hawaii to repay the $750 million loan that it obtained in order to help payroll the unemployment insurance program, and to establish the statewide broadband network, Hawaii 2.0, that Governor Ige proposed in his recent State of the State Address.
Hawaii is dependent on federal government spending just like it has been for decades. The state was close to $660 million short when David Ige assumed his office. Hawaii, despite increasing state income tax rates to one of the two highest in the nation, has never been able to make its fiscal requirements. Hawaii is not an occupied nation, but it is a failed state. It is a failed state because it failed to diversify the economy beyond tourism and federal dependency. The state became too comfortable, too wealthy, and too complacent living in isolated paradise. It costs a lot to live in paradise! It has been made evident by the pandemic that Hawaii’s lack of a diversified economy has become a liability to the United States.
The other 49 states are also in need of Federal aid, so naturally one could argue Hawaii is just taking aid that others could be put to good use. These states look at Hawaii, with one of the highest tax rates in the nation, with one of the smallest populations in the country, with no industry other than tourism and government. These states are now asking WHY? The bigger states with larger populations, with bigger economic engines, with more wealth, and with more electoral college representation are asking “why?” should more federal aid go to a paradise that mainlanders cannot easily visit? Hawaii is vulnerable because other than its strategic geographic location, it is simply not a national asset. Hawaii is a federal cash drain and the Hawaiian government must change this starting now.
Hawaii must make a plan to increase its GDP, in order to ensure Hawaii can be considered a National asset and decrease the need for federal aid. These efforts can include but are not limited to the following: open up tourism safely and aggressively, create herd immunity, open schools, approve a state lottery, legalize and tax marijuana, build casinos, privatize and complete the Honolulu Rail Transit; build all previously approved affordable housing projects that have stalled or been used for other purposes, and become business-friendly to all renewable energy, agriculture, and aquaculture companies.
Governor Ige is against some of these initiatives because he disapproves of gambling and other perceived vices. Here is my question for the Governor: Given your failed homeless initiatives earlier in your administration, do you disapprove of panhandling and begging? Certainly, you do not seem to have a problem taxing your constituents, limiting businesses, and begging the U.S. federal government to feed and house us! Someone is getting rich by the millions you are receiving and it isn’t us! Stop giving us updates and actually do things that will turn us into a self-sufficient, resilient, federal fiscal asset! Stay on top of conservative ideas.