HONOLULU — Hawaii residents at risk of eviction because of the financial impact of the coronavirus may be eligible for financial assistance under a new $100 million rent relief and housing assistance program.
Democratic Gov. David Ige announced the launch Tuesday of the program that will use federal coronavirus recovery funds to provide renters with monthly rent money and financial counseling.
“We want to keep people in their homes,” Ige said. “We don’t need additional people who are homeless during this very, very difficult time.”
The program is a joint effort between the state, Aloha United Way and Catholic Charities of Hawaii.
The first phase, budgeted for $50 million, will provide eligible renters with up to $1,500 per month in Maui, Kauai and Hawaii counties and up to $2,000 per month on Oahu.
Payments will be made directly to landlords and can be lump sums for up to three months at once, Ige said.
The remaining $50 million will support the program’s second phase covering rent and mortgage costs from the beginning of March, Ige said.
The state does not intend to return any federal recovery money, which must be spent by the end of the year, Ige said.
Full-time Hawaii residents who wish to participate must demonstrate they are either unemployed or partially employed due to the coronavirus and have a household income not exceeding 100% of the area median income.
“There still is a moratorium on evictions in place, but we know that the moratorium is not even half of the solution to this issue,” Hawaii House of Representatives Speaker Scott Saiki said.
“At some point, families will have to pay for their back rent,” Saiki said. “This program will help renters not just with their current rent, but also with their back rent.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.