Rep. Case confident Hawaii won't need to return relief funds

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii 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.

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

“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, KITV-TV reported.

Case’s office had previously said that the U.S. Treasury Department is allowing states to use federal coronavirus relief funds to replenish its unemployment insurance fund if the fund had been emptied due to the pandemic.

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

“The federal government’s the only place that has the size, the resources and the capability to deliver this level of emergency assistance that is critically needed as we go into kind of the third wave of corona­virus across the country,” Case said.

The House of Representatives had passed a $3 trillion stimulus package in May that was meant to supplement the relief bill passed in March. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other members of the Republican-controlled Senate promptly declared the House bill “dead on arrival.” McConnell later introduced a smaller, $1 trillion package in July that has not been put up for a vote.