State briefs for November 27

Case confident state won’t need to return relief funds

HONOLULU — Rep. Ed Case, a Democrat, said he was confident that unspent federal coronavirus relief funds meant for the state will not have to be returned at the end of the year despite the bill’s assertion that the money must be spent by Dec. 31.

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The state and its counties have yet to spend more than $780 million of the $1.25 billion given to Hawaii, according to the nonprofit Hawaii Data Collaborative. That includes more than $500 million remaining for the state government, more than $187 million left to spend for the City and County of Honolulu and more than $43 million remaining for Maui County.

“I’m personally comfortable that these moneys are not going to be required to be refunded to Treasury in the worst-case scenario,” Case told the state’s House Select Committee COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness on Monday.

Gov. David Ige has made the case for directing unused virus funds to pay off a $1.1 billion federal loan in the unemployment insurance trust fund.

Case also said Monday that he is hopeful for another set of relief funds.

Councilwoman suggests delayed start to rail service

HONOLULU — A Honolulu City Council member suggested the incoming mayoral administration delay the start of the city’s rail service project because of a budget shortage.

Councilwoman Kym Pine told a council committee Tuesday that pushing back the rail service’s opening would be sensible if it helps balance the city’s nearly $3 billion operating budget.

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Pine suggested delaying the start date of the first segment of the rail line by a year or longer.

Manuel Valbuena, the city’s acting director of budget and fiscal services, said last week that a projected $400 million shortfall includes $140 million to $160 million for operations and maintenance of the new rail line.

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