Gov. David Ige is delaying the implementation of unpaid furloughs for all state employees after President Trump on Sunday signed a $900 billion federal relief bill.
Furloughs, amounting to a 9% pay cut for most employees, were set to begin Friday. But Ige said on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight program Monday morning that the new round of federal relief, which is also expected to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to help government and hard-hit residents, will allow the state to delay furloughs.
Ige didn’t specify when the furloughs might begin, but he has previously floated the idea of putting them off until July.
“It’s really great news for Hawaii,” Ige said of the new stimulus measure.
The union representing University of Hawaii faculty sued Ige on Dec. 23 over plans to start furloughs on Friday. Union representatives said they did not want to wait and see what effect the relief package would have.
It’s not clear if the new relief bill will help with Hawaii’s $1.4 billion budget shortfall. Aid to state and local governments was cut from the version of the bill Trump signed on Sunday, CNN reported.
Ige said the state Department of Health is expected to get $150 million for testing and contact tracing, among other services related to Hawaii’s pandemic response. The public school system could also get $170 million, the governor said.
Ige said the state is still looking through the bill to determine what other funding Hawaii can expect, as well as to understand restrictions on how the money can be spent.
The relief measure also gives states an extension, until Dec. 31, 2021, to spend the remaining funds appropriated in the CARES Act, according to highlights of the measure compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Hawaii has already spent more than $8.2 billion in federal relief funds and still has about $1.9 billion left, according to the Hawaii Data Collaborative, which has been tracking the state’s use of relief funds.
Ige also said Monday he is still waiting to see what flexibility, if any, the bill allows the state Department of Labor and Industrial relations to staff a call center that helps process applications for unemployment insurance benefits.
Regardless of what happened with the federal relief bill, DLIR Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio had plans to hire 105 temporary workers to staff the call center starting in January.
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell