County seeks proposals to spend virus relief funds

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald file photo A volunteer directs traffic while other volunteers load food into cars June 26 during the Food Basket Ohana Food Drop in Honokaa.

Feeding the hungry while supporting local farmers, fishers and restaurants is one goal of millions of dollars worth of grants being offered by the county.

Other grants will support child care businesses so parents can get back to work, expand social-related health and wellness programs that build resilient communities and enhance internet access in poorly connected neighborhoods so students can participate in classes and workers can work from home.

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Another series of grants will go solely to community development financial institutions, financial empowerment centers, financial opportunity centers or nonprofits with the capacity to evaluate applications and deliver emergency monetary rent, lease or mortgage assistance on behalf of residents.

Utility relief is also available through a separate grant.

Those interested in applying for any of the grants better hurry — the deadline is 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Details about the grants and how to apply can be found at www.hawaiicounty.gov/cares. Deputy Finance Director Steve Hunt said Thursday that he couldn’t really speak about the process while the request for proposals is ongoing.

But two County Council members, in recent nonbinding resolutions approved by the full council, asked the county to prioritize financial bailouts for very small and women-owned businesses.

Proposals will go through a three-phase procedure using quantitative ranking, the county says. First, a two-person team will screen the applications to ensure all the required information is provided. The proposal then goes to an evaluation committee that will assign points in various categories and create a priority list that then goes to the director of the Department of Research and Development.

It’s a fast-tracked process in order to get the money out to the people quickly; the request for proposals for the grants was just published Sunday. The money must be spent by Dec. 30.

The money, part of the $80 million the county is expected to receive from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, was held by the state for disbursement to the neighbor island counties based on population. The counties have to submit monthly reports to the state about how they spend it.

The City and County of Honolulu, because it has a population greater than 500,000, was given a direct payment by the federal government.

So far the state has given the county only half the $80 million. It also made a number of requirements, including retaining the right to terminate the agreement at any time and delegating to the county functions such as lifeguards, paramedics and airport screeners previously held by the state.

As of June 30, the county has spent only $2.95 million, according to a July 10 report to the state. Of that, $1.5 million went to public safety, $707,321 went for administrative expenses and $260,325 went for community assistance.

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Complete details weren’t available by press time Thursday.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

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