WASHINGTON — A federal watchdog released its first report this week tracking how quickly state and local governments have been spending billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief aid.

Hawaii seems to be lagging. The $2 trillion CARES Act included $150 billion for state, local and tribal governments across the U.S. According to the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General, many of these entities had yet to spend much of that money by June 30.

Capitol looking Mauka showing open floor plan and architectural elements.
Hawaii officials have yet to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in coronavirus relief aid, according to a recent federal report. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Hawaii received $1.25 billion from the federal government through the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund after it was created in March, but only spent $150 million — or about 12% — by June 30. Other states were similarly slow in getting the money out the door while states such as California and Colorado spent the majority of their funds.

Large cities, including Honolulu, received a share of these funds as well, with similarly mixed levels of spending. Honolulu received $387 million through the relief deal and spent $62 million by the end of June, which equates to about 16% of the total. Las Vegas, on the other hand, received $118 million and spent $111 million, or 93%, by June 30.

As Civil Beat reported this week, there are some island officials who worry the state and county governments aren’t spending the money fast enough, especially when there are requirements to get the funds out the door before the end of the year. House Speaker Scott Saiki said if the state doesn’t step up it could lose out on “millions and millions of dollars.”

The inspector general’s report only focused on a small sliver of the overall CARES Act relief package. Billions more have flowed into the state through expanded unemployment benefits and a forgivable loan program for small businesses.

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