By KIM JARRETT
THE CENTER SQUARE ASSOCIATE EDITOR
(The Center Square) — Hawaii has allocated $870 million of the $1.6 billion it received from the American Rescue Plan Act to unemployment insurance, Gov. David Ige said.
About $800 million of that went to repay a loan from the federal government needed to pay unemployment claims. The state has paid $6.5 billion in benefits for 300,000 Hawaiians since the pandemic began.
The remaining $70 million was distributed to the unemployment insurance call and adjudication center, Gov. Ige said Tuesday.
The state was able to adjust the unemployment insurance tax schedule, which saved businesses an average of $946 annually in 2021 and $1,084 in 2022, the governor said.
“We did not want to saddle businesses and employees with the added cost of the unemployment insurance system,” Gov. Ige said.
The ARPA funds helped the state get through the pandemic, Gov. Ige said in a statement.
“COVID resulted in a global economic shutdown, which had devastating consequences on our state,” Gov. Ige said. “We were forced to cut many programs and services, state workers were at risk of being furloughed, our hospital system was overwhelmed, our tourism industry was shut down, and our economy was on the brink of collapse.”
The state doled out $213.9 million for health-related services. Emergency medical services received the most, $84 million, while $50 million went to public safety to strengthen its COVID-19 response. Other funds were distributed to hospitals, the Department of Health and for COVID-19 test kits.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority received $60 million to help keep the state’s largest industry afloat. The state gave $11 million in ARPA funds to the convention center.
Hawaiian officials spent $41 million on the Safe Travels Hawaii initiative, which set parameters for tourists visiting the state. Visitors must show proof they are fully vaccinated or provide a negative COVID-19 test result to avoid a mandatory five-day quarantine when entering the state.
Gov. Ige said the state is awaiting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on whether it should change the definition of fully vaccinated to include a booster shot. The Safe Travels program is short-staffed and more people are needed before changes could be made, Gov. Ige said.
Other ARPA allocations included $29.3 million for education and $13.6 million for essential services such as senior centers and family health.
State officials plan to use $2.7 million to modernize its financial services and $1.5 million for broadband expansion.