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700 Lanai resort workers are put on furlough

They still are receiving full medical benefits

More than 700 workers for Four Seasons Resorts Lana’i, who were furloughed Aug. 11, continue to receive medical benefits and will be brought back when the two luxury resorts reopen, resort officials said Tuesday.

The two luxury resorts, the Four Seasons Resorts Lana’i on the coast at Manele and Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort, in Koele, reopened on July 1 after initially shutting down due to COVID-19 and had tried to attract the interisland market by offering kamaaina specials, said Rep. Lynn DeCoite, whose district includes Lanai, on Tuesday.

That plan dissolved when the interisland quarantine was reimposed Aug. 11.

Lori Holland, a spokeswoman for Four Seasons Resorts Lana’i, said workers were being paid from March 25, when the resort closed, until July 1, when it reopened. The reinstatement of the interisland quarantine on Aug. 11 “necessitated additional actions.”

While the furloughs are in place, Holland said workers may use their paid time off, which includes personal, sick or vacation days. They also can file for unemployment compensation.

“In addition to our standard coverage, we are placing employees on furlough with medical benefits coverage at 100 percent of their usual package,” Holland said. “We thank our dedicated teams for their understanding and commitment to keeping themselves and everyone we serve safe, and look forward to welcoming employees and guests back to our resorts when we reopen.”

“We do have services being provided,” said DeCoite, who said she was aware of the possibility of furloughs two months back.

She estimated around 720 workers were being furloughed. Four Seasons Resort did not provide a figure for employees furloughed.

DeCoite is counting on the $300 per week additional unemployment compensation benefit that the state is tapping from the federal government to help the workers. That is less than the $600 per week unemployment benefit that expired in July.

Those who are unemployed or partially unemployed due to COVID-19 may be eligible. Payments would be retroactive to Aug. 1.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents the hotel workers, is offering assistance with applying for unemployment benefits, even with computer skills for filing, if needed.

Despite the furloughs, DeCoite applauded the efforts of Larry Ellison in assisting the workers with pay and health benefits despite no visitors and income from the resorts. Ellison, one of the richest people in the world, owns nearly all of Lanai.

“All of them were being paid through this hardship. We got to give some love to Ellison,” she said.

Donations have been made to the community through groups and nonprofits, which may have received CARES Act funding, DeCoite said. She also noted the food drives organized by Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino and Maui County Council Member Riki Hokama, who holds the Lanai residency seat.

During his daily news conference Tuesday afternoon, Victorino said the food drives will continue and unemployed workers may apply for assistance through the Hawaii Emergency Laulima Partnership program or HELP.

The program, administered by Maui Economic Opportunity, assists residents with essential needs, such as food, personal hygiene, medicine, rent, mortgage, utility services, phone or internet services, car payments and other necessities. For more information, go to meoinc.org.

Victorino acknowledged how employees were paid by Ellison for four months and said that as the pandemic goes on longer and longer things cannot continue as is. “I understand their position,” he said.

Hokama concurred with Victorino, noting that Ellison and others tried to assist workers as long as they could and “have been very supportive of our island.”

The council member was looking for ways to improve the weekly food distributions, which are funded by money put aside annually for county districts for economic and cultural programs.

The food distributions contain items and produce bought locally to help local business. And this month, Maui Cattle Co. hamburger will be given away, Hokama said.

He said Kamaka Air, which provides interisland freight delivery, has offered to fly the beef in for free when it makes its runs to Lanai.

Hokama is monitoring what can be done for Lanai residents, as well as others in the county, who continue to have difficulty paying rent and utility bills due to continued unemployment. The lack of power could be disastrous, especially with children at home distance learning and families social distancing.

For the longer term, Hokama would like to see the county purchase agricultural land so local Lanai farmers may be able to grow their own crops, independent of Pulama Lana’i’s agricultural operations. Pulama Lana’i is the entity handling operations on the island for Ellison.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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