More federal funds are flowing to Hawaii to support the cost of testing and contact tracing efforts in response to the COVID-19 virus.

At least $16.3 million from the national $500 billion coronavirus relief package is designated specifically for Hawaii to do COVID-19 testing.

Another $5 million was received by Hawaii from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the national CARES Act.

The Department of Health will be given the $16.3 million in funds and is required to submit a plan, Sen. Brian Schatz told Civil Beat Thursday.

Hawaii received $16 million in federal funding for expanded tested and contact tracing. Pictured here is a DOH office for call takers. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

States have the option to scale up testing by commercial laboratories, as well as hire more people to conduct contact tracing. Funds may also be used for things like laptops and phones, Schatz said.

The Department of Health did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the funds and how they would be spent.

“The only way we can begin to reopen our economy is by ramping up testing,” Schatz said.

Meanwhile, 10 rural hospitals across the islands also received a financial boost. A federal grant of $843,170 will be given to DOH to help rural hospitals purchase more personal protective equipment and boost testing.

Funds will be awarded via the Small Hospital Improvement Program (SHIP), which is administered by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

Recipients include Molokai General Hospital, Lanai Community Hospital and Kula Hospital on Maui.

On the Big Island, Kau Hospital, Hale Hoola Hamakua, Kohala Hospital and North Hawaii Community Hospital will receive funds.

On Oahu, Kahuku Medical Center, and on Kauai, the Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital and Samuel Mahelona Medical Center are due to receive funds.

The Pacific Basin Telehealth Resource Center at the University of Hawaii will also be supported by a $828,571 federal grant for telemedicine assistance to doctors and clinics.

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