State briefs for December 25

Some residents cannot activate city grocery cards

HONOLULU — Some Honolulu residents say their city-issued debit cards loaded with $500 to buy groceries have not been properly activated, frustrating many recipients.


But by late Wednesday, the city announced a change that would allow cardholders to activate their cards online. The city’s call center was set to call card recipients on its list to let them know, said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s spokesman Alexander Zannes in an email.

Earlier this month, the city issued 4,000 debit cards for residents struggling financially because of the coronavirus pandemic to use on groceries and other essential goods.

But many of those cards have not worked and were distributed later than expected. Some of those who received faulty cards also said that they cannot get through to vendor Mobility Finance Capital Inc. to activate the cards because of high call volume.

Caldwell on Tuesday apologized for the program’s problems.

“We want to apologize to folks who are having trouble activating the card, and we also want to apologize for the delay in the delivery of the cards.”

Tour firm reports more buyers after volcano eruption

KAILUA-KONA — One Big Island helicopter tour company has seen a substantial rise in bookings following the resumption of eruptive activity at Kilauea volcano and following months of limited business because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Paradise Helicopters has experienced an increase in bookings since Kilauea volcano began erupting Sunday, said Bronsten Kossow, the company’s operations manager.

“The call volume is way up and people want to fly now,” Kossow said. “The volcano immediately started the phones ringing. Everyone who is here wants to get up and fly.”

The company booked all of its aircraft and pilots and conducted nine flights Monday — figures the company has not reported since before the pandemic began.

Kossow said before the pandemic, the company flew about 30-40 flights per day.

Kilauea began erupting Sunday for the first time in two years, but the molten rock poses no threat to residents as it is contained within Halema‘uma‘u crater.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane told the Associated Press in a telephone interview that a crowd of cars lined up Monday at the national park’s entrance to get a glimpse of the eruption.


“There is a lot of cars waiting on Crater Rim Drive to get out to Kilauea overlook,” she said, adding that onlookers should expect long lines for parking spaces.

The volcano’s two years of relative silence came after more than three decades of constant eruption from 1983-2018. Roughly 700 houses were destroyed during an the 2018 eruption and lava flows in Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone.

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