County working hard for working families
There are many front line heroes that deserve our appreciation as we work in Maui County to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic. We express our deep gratitude to the health care workers, first responders, nonprofits, community groups, County workers and volunteers who all work to provide essential services during this time.
I’d like to also take a moment and recognize all the hardworking families in our Maui County ‘ohana. Our working families are facing unprecedented financial uncertainty. Many are unsure of how they will make ends meet while our major economic industry, tourism, is shuttered. Mortgages, utility bills and grocery tabs continue to come due, and we recognize the stress and worry that this brings for many.
On the county level, we are working tirelessly to provide financial assistance to individual families, farmers and small businesses. We recognize the extreme amount of need in our community right now and are quickly evaluating ways to streamline and provide increased assistance.
The Hawaii Emergency Laulima Partnership program (HELP) was started by the County of Maui through a partnership with Maui Economic Opportunity Inc. Thanks to an initial $2 million approved by the Maui County Council, the program launched at the beginning of April. MEO has seen over 1,200 applications and anticipates more to come.
We recognize that working families need assistance, and they need it as soon as possible. We encourage everyone who applies for the HELP program to make sure they submit all the proper documentation. We are also working with MEO to use community feedback to make the process as easy and helpful as possible.
To date, we have distributed food to over 2,000 families through events Upcountry, in Central Maui, South Maui, West Maui and Lanai. It is our goal to reach as many of our communities as possible to feed our families most in need. We are so grateful to the many community partners who have made this possible.
Numerous organizations, like the Maui Food Bank and the Salvation Army of Maui County, are also doing their share to help. The Salvation Army is seeking donations of nonperishable food, hygiene products, cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves. Information on how to donate is available at Maui.SalvationArmy.org or by calling 877-6750.
One of the most in-demand resources is the state’s unemployment system. The Office of the Mayor receives calls, emails and comments daily from people who are frustrated trying to navigate this system. As the county, we do not administer this system or have any control over its functions. However, given the need in our community, our Maui American Job Center has updated a website with new resources to help Maui County residents file for state unemployment insurance or register for job searches after widespread layoffs caused by the COVID-19 crisis. The website has been coordinated by Maui County Workforce Development Program partners, State of Hawaii Unemployment Insurance Division and the Maui County American Job Center.
People who are having trouble accessing the state unemployment system can file a claim by clicking on a link on the website and a completed application can be emailed to state unemployment insurance staff for data input. The county is here to help you navigate the system as best we can, however, the unemployment insurance is administered by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.
As your mayor, I want all our local working families to know that we are continuously working to provide assistance and help you through this uncertain time. I recognize that many are experiencing stress and worry, and this is not something we take lightly.
Please continue to stay home, work from home, practice social distancing and only leave the house for essential purposes. Also remember that only two members of a household can leave at a time.
I want to thank all of our working families for the sacrifices they have made economically and socially. This will help save lives in our Maui County ‘ohana.
* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, discusses county issues and activities of county government. The column usually appears on the first and third Saturdays of the month.