Hawaii is an expensive place to live, and since this pandemic began, unemployment and financial turmoil have been rampant throughout the state. For islands like Maui, which are almost completely dependent on tourism this pandemic has struck especially hard. There is a silver lining however, in the form of a new federally funded rental assistance program.
Any Hawaii resident who has lost their job, or a substantial amount of their income due to COVID-19 and is at risk of being evicted from their home can qualify. The new program which is funded by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, will provide renters with monthly rent as well as financial counseling. The program just received an additional $100 million in funding.
Those eligible include Hawaii renters who are unemployed or partially unemployed due to the pandemic and have a household income at or below 100% of area median income. On Maui the area median income for a family of 4 is $102,500. Renters will not be receiving the payment themselves, rather their landlords will be receiving the payment on their behalf. On Maui that payment could cover up to $1,500 in monthly rent.
Governor David Ige, along with other prominent political figures in Hawaii have been negotiating heavily for rental assistance as well as more financial support for struggling families. “We want to keep people in their homes,” Gov. David Ige said in announcing the program at a news conference at the state Capitol. “We don’t need additional people who are homeless during this very, very difficult time.”
This program is scheduled to run through the end of the year, but many are saying rental assistance along with other financial aid programs should be extended well into 2021 as Hawaii rebuilds an economy gravely impacted by the pandemic. The current eviction moratorium covers renters who haven’t been able to pay their rent through the end of September, but Governor Ige is concerned as soon as it’s lifted that there will be a surge in landlords attempting to evict their tenants. The new rental assistance program is designed to not only help tenants with their rent payments through the end of the year, but also the backlog of missed payments. “We must do more to keep families in their homes,” Ige said at Tuesday’s news briefing.