Not even five months have passed since the first case of COVID-19 in our country, and only just over three months since the first in our Hawai’i. In that short period over 2,000,000 of our fellow citizens have been infected, close to 120,000 lost, our national and state economies devastated with tens of millions of jobs lost, our social safety net stretched to breaking, and each and all of our lives disrupted in some way.
Throughout this crisis, my office and I have been completely committed to three goals: (1) making the right decisions in Congress for all of our country; (2) assuring that our Hawaii’s own critical needs are addressed; and (c) assisting you with your own questions and needs. I have also been fully committed to communicating with you clearly, honestly and frequently. To continue, I want to provide you with this update and ask for your own further assistance.
Implementing a prudent reopening plan
Although the declines in infections and deaths of the last month are good news, the recent resurgences across our country and here at home are a stark reminder of just how dangerous this virus is and how foolish it would be to take recovery for granted. We must start to reopen, but steadily and safely without risking severe surges that will not only endanger us all but do even deeper and longer lasting damage to our economy and social safety net. Though each state must decide how to strike this very difficult balance, it would be far better if all states followed a federally-funded national plan and standards to ensure that no one state brings down all. That is the direction of the Reopen America Act of 2020 which I cosponsored with my U.S. House colleagues.
Directing national emergency assistance
In such a deep, broad and immediate national emergency, only our federal government has the resources and ability to carry our country through the crisis and into stability and recovery. Since early March, Congress has passed and the President has signed four laws (main one referred to as CARES), with close to $3 trillion of emergency assistance funding. We have also passed and the President has signed a law I cosponsored to fix the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which has brought almost $2.5 billion in emergency assistance to some 24,000 Hawai’i small businesses. The U.S. House has also passed a sixth bill, the HEROES Act which I also cosponsored, to fund further trillions to critical needs across the board. This assistance has been indispensable not only to fighting the public health crisis but to preserving as much of our economy, jobs, social services and safety net as possible while we do so.
Ensuring federal assistance reaches Hawai’i
It is never enough just to pass federal assistance; it has to be tracked and pushed through each step in each program until it reaches its destination. My office and I have devoted ourselves to this goal throughout the past months to ensure that Hawai’i receives our fair share. To date we have tracked and pushed around $7.5 billion to Hawai’i through around 75 federal programs. Some are large, like the some $2.5 billion PPP and $500 million in additional assistance to Hawai’i small businesses, $1.25 billion to state and local government, $1 billion in economic impact direct payments to Hawai’i residents
, and estimated $1 billion in federal additions to state unemployment benefits, while others are more targeted like assistance to hospitals and health care providers, schools and non-profits serving the needy. But each and all of this assistance has been critical to keeping us going as best we can through one of the worst economic crises in our country.
Providing a safe reopening for Hawai’i
Travel and tourism, our state’s top industry and generator of hundreds of thousands of our jobs as well as revenues to support our state and local government services, depends entirely on visitors feeling safe getting on planes to come here, enjoying themselves while here
, and returning to their own communities. It also depends on all of us feeling safe with visitors coming here, especially since many come from places with much higher rates of COVID-19 than ours. I believe strongly that the best way for us to ensure that safety is by requiring all who wish to travel to Hawai’i by air to be tested for COVID-19 before they get on the plane when it’s easier, not after they get off when they’re already here, it’s harder and too many ignore our 14-day quarantine. I have pursued Hawai’i being provided this authority, and have also introduced my Air Travel Public Health Emergency Act to provide it by law.
Addressing your main questions
Throughout this crisis, my office has received and responded to tens of thousands of your questions and needs for assistance. These have ranged across the board, and each and all are welcome. The main areas have been small business assistance through the Small Business Administration’s PPP
and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), the economic impact direct payments, and state unemployment benefits. Please note that the PPP and EIDL assistance is still available; if you are a small business in need of assistance and haven’t applied, or if you have applied but haven’t received your assistance, please contact us and we will try to help. Most of the direct payments have now been made; if you expected but have not received a payment please contact us and we will try to help. State unemployment payments have been the most difficult because of the hundreds of thousands of claims that swamped the system. Although this is not a federal program (our federal addition is paid through the state), please contact us and we will try to help.
Providing COVID-19 information and resources
In a time of such great uncertainty in so many areas, one of my main goals remains to get you the information and resources you need to help you with your own questions and goals. My special COVID-19 page on my website provides you with much of that information as well as outlines my various efforts on you and our Hawaii’s behalf. If you don’t find what you need there or have any questions or needs on any other matter, please contact me here.
I have also taken every opportunity I can to talk story with you, listen to your concerns and answer your questions in live time. To this end, I am hosting another Tele-Talk Story with Congressman Ed Case this coming Monday, June 22nd, 6:30-8:00 PM Hawai’i time. I really hope you will join in. Here is the information on how to connect:
- Most of you will receive a call from me at (808) 650-6688 right before my Talk Story. When you do, just stay on the line and you’ll be connected automatically. If you don’t get my call, you can call into my Talk Story at 855-274-9528.
- You can also join online at https://case.house.gov/live/.
I fully understand the heavy responsibility of representing our country, our Hawai’i and you and yours in Congress during this very difficult time for us all. Please know that my office and I are completely at your service, and are there for you and totally committed to seeing all of us through.
PS: We all know that COVID-19 is not the only crisis facing our country, and my work in Congress in addition to these crises such as my efforts on the House Appropriations Committee to fund our country and Hawai’i in the upcoming fiscal year are ongoing. I am not addressing these matters here because Congress’ rules prohibit mass communications on subjects other than the COVID-19 crisis close to elections. If you have any questions or concerns on any other matters, please do contact me here. Mahalo!
P.S. Please sign up for my regular e-newsletter here.