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HAWAII MAYORS GIVE STATUS REPORT ON FEDERAL STIMULUS PROGRAM

 

(Monday, August 24, 2009) – Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann joined Hawaii’s other county mayors today to testify about their success in effectively utilizing federal funding for social services, provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The mayors also met at Honolulu Hale to discuss the status of collective bargaining with unions that represent state and county employees.

 

            At a special field hearing of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Daniel K. Inouye, the mayors spoke with a unified voice as the Hawaii Council of Mayors. With Hannemann were Kauai County Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr., Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi and Maui County Mayor Charmaine Tavares.

 

Hannemann acknowledged Senator Inouye’s strong support for federal assistance to cities and counties throughout America and then delivered his testimony, which was divided into the following areas:

 

Job Training

 

            Throughout our counties, the job training funding has been an immediate success.  The funds were received quickly and each county was able to employ economically disadvantaged youth during the summer.  This program provided employment experience to youth and supplemented the work force of government and non-profit organizations.  It served 370 youth on Oahu, 200 on the Big Island, 21 from Kauai, and 65 on Maui.  Young people earned money this summer to purchase clothes, school supplies, and otherwise contribute to the family income.  The mayors hope that a summer job program will be funded again so that the nation’s youth can earn wages to supplement their family income, gain valuable work experience, and provide a service to their communities.

 

Adult and dislocated workers are beginning to see assistance from the counties through programs funded under the ARRA.  Oahu expects to serve 400 individuals, Hawaii will serve about 300, Maui will serve 117, and Kauai will serve 11.  These programs are intended to provide training in high demand occupations and provide support services for employment of laid-off workers and low-income individuals.  In addition, money allocated for group dining and home-delivered meal programs is being used to serve 28,000 meals to about 110 seniors on Oahu in FY 2010 through Meals on Wheels.

 

CDBG

 

The more than $4 million in additional Community Development Block Grant program funding will allow the counties to fund capital improvement projects for non-profits serving their communities, legal services programs, and energy efficiency upgrades to save energy and help reduce utility costs.  Unfortunately, while the counties have selected the programs, the funding has not yet reached the service providers.  Once the funds are awarded, the CDBG-funded programs statewide are expected to provide the equivalent of full-time employment for 35 residents over the course of a year.  The jobs will be in construction and direct provision of services to the community.

 

Since CDBG is a tried-and-true partnership success between the federal government and state and local jurisdictions, Hannemann thanked Senator Inouye, on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, for championing the CDBG funding among his Senate colleagues.  Inouye’s work was acknowledged at the mayors’ meeting in Providence, Rhode Island.

 

Homelessness

 

The City and County of Honolulu and County of Hawaii were awarded Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing ARRA funds.  The sum of $3,873,272 in contracts was recently awarded to Oahu entities to provide rental assistance, case management, credit counseling, housing placement, outreach, and legal services.  The organizations should start providing these much-needed services by next month.  In the County of Hawaii, the non-profit Office of Social Ministry expects to draw down the first installment of a three-year $707,850 grant on September 1 to pay rental deposits, utility bills, and provide other assistance to the homeless or families at risk of becoming homeless.

 

Public Safety

 

Another component of the ARRA that will directly help the counties is funding for law enforcement.  The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant provided about $4.3 million directly to all four counties.  Hawaii County will be hiring two police evidence specialists and upgrading the computer server used by the prosecutor’s office.  The County of Maui will use its money to upgrade police department computer equipment and fund a community violence program manager, while the Prosecuting Attorney will hire an attorney and clerical support for the juvenile prosecution program.  The County of Kauai will be using the funding to improve training, update equipment, and hire a part-time process server and special investigator.  The Kauai Prosecuting Attorney’s office will be able to hire four part-time staff members and two full-time staff for the domestic violence prosecution unit, property crime prosecution unit, and for a special prosecuting attorney.  On Oahu, funds will be used to employ civilian staff to increase community policing resources, provide a psychiatric nurse to improve coordination between the criminal justice and mental health systems, hire an evidence custodian, and hire an additional 5.5 staff members for the Prosecuting Attorney’s drug court program.  Some equipment and program expansions are also planned.  While the grant award has been processed, the City’s internal processes are working toward implementation of these programs.  The new staff should be hired shortly and the equipment should be put out to bid soon.

 

The Honolulu Police Department was recently awarded more than $5 million from the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Recovery Program.  This competitive grant award provides the salaries for 21 new police officers over three years.  HPD is working to determine the allocation of these new-hire positions and planning for a recruit training class.  The recruit selection is nearly complete.  The County of Hawaii has applied for a COPS grant to fund 16 community policing positions for three years, and hopes that request will be funded in a future review of COPS applications.

 

Broadband

 

Another critical public safety initiative under ARRA is a partnership between the three Neighbor Island counties and the private sector to expand broadband access for public safety purposes on Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii.  This competitive grant application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration is designed to help protect the public by delivering broadband service to remote locations for security, law enforcement, civil defense, and emergency medical assistance purposes.  The project will also make the existing Neighbor Island broadband infrastructure far more resilient, which will help protect public safety during natural disasters and emergencies.

 

Another prong of the ARRA effort to improve social services is funding to the state hospital system.  While this did not benefit Honolulu, the mayors have been pleased by the direct funding provided to retain staff and improve equipment to ensure that quality medical care is available to their residents.

 

The mayors also credited the additional social safety net provisions provided by the federal government.  The increased funding for these programs that provide resources directly to our residents, such as unemployment insurance, child care services, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, is essential to residents.

 

Permitting Process

 

The counties are quite aware of the importance of the permitting process in implementing infrastructure projects.  Time is money, so the counties are prioritizing initiatives to expedite the permits, especially for the ARRA projects given their timeliness.  The City and County of Honolulu, for example, is moving forward on its self-certification initiatives that the mayor announced at his state-of-the-city address in February.  This would enable state and county agencies to reduce the time it takes to review and approve construction permits.

 

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Media contact: Bill Brennan, Mayor’s Office, 768-6928