HONOLULU – Attorney General David M. Louie announced that Roselani Wise (51, Lihue) was charged with Theft in the Second Degree on July 23, 2014 and arraigned on August 12, 2014, before Judge Randal Valenciano, Fifth Circuit, Island of Kauai. Her trial has been set for October 6, 2014.
Ms. Wise, a former Department of Human Services (DHS) investigator on the island of Kauai, was charged with Theft in the Second Degree for receiving unearned compensation from the State of Hawaii from 2008 through 2012.
An investigation revealed that during the hours for which she was being paid by DHS to conduct criminal fraud investigations, Ms. Wise was employed and actually working for the Federal Transportation Security Administration at the Lihue Airport.
Ms. Wise received in excess of $10,000 for work she did not perform.
A charge by way of Written Information is merely an allegation against Ms. Wise and she is presumed innocent until found guilty of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt by a judge or jury.
HONOLULU — House Majority floor leader Rida Cabanilla is out of a job after losing the Democratic primary to Matt LoPresti.
Hawaii Reporter was first to report in May that Cabanilla controlled a 501-c-3 nonprofit that received a $100,000 grant from the Hawaii State Legislature, which had lost its federal tax-exempt status with the IRS when it neglected to file required paperwork for at least three years.
Cabanilla told Hawaii Reporter she filed paperwork with the IRS for the Ewa Historical Society Inc. to rectify the issue, but that was after she already applied for — and was granted — funding from the Legislature. Cabanilla had not told fellow lawmakers she controlled the charity - or that it was out of IRS compliance - before they granted the charity’s request, and her name did not appear anywhere on the application submitted to the Legislature.
The Old Ewa Cemetery, a historic site founded in 1896, has been owned by the city and county of Honolulu since the 1970s and is maintained by the city and county and volunteers, including descendants of people buried there.
Former City Council Member Berg, who lives in Ewa, noted the charity applied in January for a $200,000 grant from the Legislature to hire three landscapers at $42,000 a piece and three grounds keepers at $23,000 each to take care of the 3-acre Old Ewa Cemetery.
If the grant had been awarded it would have equated to $17,000 a month in state funding going toward maintenance, in addition to what the city already does monthly, Berg said.
Since the Legislature awarded Cabanilla’s charity just half the money it requested, she told Hawaii Reporrter, “The $100,000 is just for weed whacking.”
Cabanilla explained she originally listed six positions on the application because she didn’t want anyone to work at the cemetery alone because of safety concerns, including sink holes near graves and ghost sightings. The state attorney general said in July that Cabanilla's charity would not receive the grant because of the tax filing issue.
The controversy over the cemetery isn't the only one that likely contributed to Cabanilla's political demise.
In Nov. 2013, the state Campaign Spending Commission fined Cabanilla $500 for filing “false or inaccurate” campaign spending reports and $50 for filing the reports late. Cabanilla held a fundraiser in March 2013, which raised nearly $5,800 and expended nearly $2,900. Her campaign spending report said she had no activity during that period. She apologized publicly for her “error.”
In January, Cabanilla brought media coverage after she proposed solving Hawaii’s financial troubles by legalizing cultivating, manufacturing and exporting marijuana and marijuana food products internationally.
In July, Cabanilla proposed implementing “Return to Home,” which would set aside $100,000 over three years to buy homeless people from the U.S. mainland one-way airfare home. Cabanilla said giving the homeless airline tickets would reduce the ever-growing problem of homelessness in Hawaii and ensure the homeless can reconnect with family and support networks in their home states.
Neither the governor nor the state Department of Human Services, the agency that establishes and administers the program under state law, has implemented it. The Department of Human Service director said she believes the program would attract more homeless people to Hawaii.
In the general election, LoPresti will take on Berg, who is running as a Libertarian. Brian Jeremiah, a New Hope pastor who reformed himself after criminal past, is running as a Republican.
By Tom Yamachika - Our legislative session for this year is now over. Among other things the legislature passed this year was the state budget. With the exception of a few line-item vetoes, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed the bill and now we have a budget.
Our state's fiscal year started on July 1st. With that new budget in place, can agencies like our Department of Taxation start implementing the plans that are in their approved budget? The answer is no. Despite having a budget in place, the Governor's office has ordered spending restrictions. The restrictions are across-the-board, meaning that every agency must take its general fund budget and cut it again by a certain percentage. For the fiscal year that just began, that percentage is 10%, double the amount restricted last fiscal year.
Kalbert Young, director of the state Department of Budget and Finance, said this restriction was ordered because state revenues are predicted to be flat to nearly a half percent lower than for the fiscal year that just ended. "While the ten percent is admittedly larger, it's still only preliminary and it's really until certain financial and fiscal metrics are more thoroughly evaluated for the state," he told HawaiiNewsNow.
The restrictions mean departments will not be able to spend money buying new vehicles and other equipment, hire new personnel or expand new programs or start new ones, at least for the next few months.
But what about fixing things that could use some repair?
Witness our Department of Taxation. In its annual reports, it said that when taxpayers called, their employees were able to answer the phone only some of the time. This percentage has varied over the years: 90% in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2007, 81% in 2008, 80% in 2009, 61% in 2010, 40% in 2011, 57% in 2012, and 59% in 2013.
Folks, if our tax agency can only pick up the phone half the time, and they are making the news for duplicate bills and other issues, a 10% indiscriminate budget cut is not going to help fix them. We need to realize that we depend on tax revenue, and that we depend on this department to bring it in. Are we going to starve the golden goose to make it lay more eggs?
We already know that the Department of Education has asked for reconsideration from the cut since it comes at the beginning of the school year when public schools have their largest start-up costs. If our government leaders are inclined to grant requests like this one, shouldn't reconsideration be given to our tax agency which brings in the funds so desperately needed?
Sure, every department and every office will argue that their programs and services are essential, and they all will have good arguments. Thus, one may think that to be fair, every agency must feel the ax equally. But in practice that isn't how it works. The Department of Transportation and the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs are funded by federal money and special funds, which means they are exempt from the restrictions. So: two agencies bring in their own money and are exempt, while DOTAX brings in their own AND everyone else's money, and has to feel the pain.
Come on, folks. Let’s go back to the original problem, which is state revenues. The restrictions were ordered because we aren’t sure how much money is going to come in. If we are going to starve the agency whose primary job is to bring in that money and cripple its operations, we will increase the chances that the money will not, in fact, come in. Put another way, if we need the golden goose to pull us out of our financial doldrums, we better make sure the goose is healthy.
Tom Yamachika is the President of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii. Mr. Yamachika's commentary is printed each week in: The Maui News, West Hawaii Today, The Garden Island, Civil Beat , Hawaii Free Press and the HawaiiReporter.com.
Thousands of Hawaii households remain without electricity in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Iselle this past weekend. Most people affected by power outages reside on the east side of Hawaii Island. Others are scattered across Oahu and Maui County.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) reminds beneficiaries of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly known as Food Stamps) that beneficiary households may request reimbursement for the actual dollar value of food destroyed by storm related power outages. The reimbursement cannot exceed the household's current monthly allotment (HAR 17-681-31).
To qualify for reimbursement, the affected household must have been participating in the SNAP when the disaster occurred, and report the loss to the DHS Benefit, Employment and Support Services Division (BESSD) within 10 business days of the severe weather event. The deadline to submit reimbursement requests for food spoiled during Tropical Storm Iselle is Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014.
To be considered for the reimbursement, the affected SNAP household must provide the DHS BESSD a signed statement that includes the following information:
1) Name of the storm and dates of impact;
2) General list of food items lost due to storm related power outage;
3) Length of time household power was out of service;
4) Statement that the household is aware of the penalties for the intentional misrepresentation of the facts; and
5) Statement that the household is aware that SNAP replacement allotment will not be issued if the required statement is not signed and returned within 10 days.
BEFORE MAILING OR DROPPING OFF the reimbursement request, SNAP beneficiaries should contact the BESSD Processing Center that maintains their case file for additional instructions. Individuals who don’t know which Processing Center maintains their file may call (808) 586-5720 to inquire.
An estimated 98,000 households currently receive SNAP benefits statewide. There are approximately 25,000 SNAP households on Hawaii Island; 5,000 on Kauai; and 12,000 in Maui County. To learn more about the Hawaii SNAP, visit the DHS website www.humanservices.hawaii.gov/bessd/snap.
The southern U.S. state of North Carolina is stepping up efforts to guard against the possible spread of the Ebola virus to the United States.
On Sunday, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said anyone returning from Africa who worked with Ebola patients will be put into quarantine.
That precautionary measure will mean isolation for three weeks after a missionary’s last contact with an Ebola-infected person.
Two missionaries from North Carolina-based aid organizations contracted the deadly virus working at a clinic in Liberia with Ebola-infected patients.
The missionaries - one from SIM USA and the other from Samaritan’s Purse - are being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.
The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is on pace to infect more people than all previous outbreaks of the virus combined.
The World Health Organization on Friday said 1,779 people in four West African nations have contracted the deadly virus so far, and that 961 of them have died.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has activated its emergency operation center at the highest level.
HONOLULU — As the Big Island of Hawaii and Maui were impacted by weather generated by two passing hurricanes last week, some residents believed any substantial damage could be alleviated by the state’s $126 million hurricane relief fund.
But that well has nearly run dry after the state Legislature snatched the funds to balance the budget in 2011.
The fund was established in 1993, shortly after Hurricane Iniki slammed into the islands of Oahu and Kauai on Sept. 11, 1992. That Category 4 hurricane, the most powerful storm to ever hit Hawaii, killed six people and caused $1.8 billion in damage. More than 1,400 homes on Kauai were destroyed and another 5,000 homes severely damaged in the 145-mph winds.
After the storm, several insurance companies either went out of business or refused to insure the Hawaiian market, and as a result, hurricane coverage availability and affordability became major issues for homeowners.
In response, the state established the hurricane relief fund, requiring homeowners to contribute.
As the hurricane insurance market improved in the following years, the fund discontinued issuing hurricane policies, but there was still a substantial fund balance remaining.
Some homeowners wanted their money returned. Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, introduced legislation to facility refunds, but that bill was defeated. The fund proved too tempting for the Legislature and governor, and they raided the fund in 2011 to balance the state budget.
Some $55.5 million was repaid as of August 2013. State Finance Director Kalbert Young said another $55.5 million will be refunded this month.
“I warned against any special fund being established because the funds would be in danger of being raided by the Legislature or the executive branch, as was the case in 2011,” Slom said. “We cannot guarantee funds that are supposed to be earmarked will ever be used for that purpose.”
So if not for homeowners to access, what’s the purpose of the fund?
There is now adequate insurance coverage available in the marketplace for homeowners to get private hurricane so the fund isn’t “active” for coverage, Young said. The fund will remain dormant until sufficient private hurricane insurance policies aren’t available, he added.
The fund is considered state reserve and use of the funds is limited, extensively controlled, and future use would require legislative authority, Young said.
However, if a catastrophe occurs and funds are needed to repair infrastructure, the governor and Legislature could use the money for that purpose.
“Clearly, one source could be the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund, but others could include cash appropriation, debt authority or special funds,” Young said.
Slom said he opposes any further raids on the fund. “Raiding it to balance the budget for excessive spending is outrageous,” he said.
Hurricane Iselle first hit the Big Island of Hawaii on Thursday evening as a weak hurricane, and then transitioned into a tropical storm as it doused the island chain Friday with heavy rains. Hurricane Julio went north of the islands.
HONOLULU - The Hawaii Bankers Association (HBA) today announced a coalition named Hawaii's Partnership Against Fraud (HPAF), led by the HBA to generate greater awareness about the threats of financial scams. HPAF brings together community resources dedicated to protecting local citizens, especially the elderly, from the many scams perpetrated in the community. As over 80% of the victims of financial scams are over the age of 60, the coalition is specifically geared towards this age group.
The coalition partners include:
The campaign kicked off in early July with media advertising on television and radio, funded by the HBA. The advertising, running statewide, will continue through the end of the year. The advertising poses various fraud scenarios and asks the question: "Is This For Real?"
The coalition is also available to make presentations to community groups to discuss prevailing fraud schemes, and tips to protect consumers. Brochures and other printed materials will be available from participating coalition partners. Participating banks will also be distributing educational materials to its customers. To request a presentation, call Diane at the State of Hawaii Executive Office on Aging at (808) 382-1904.
Members of the public with questions about the legitimacy of offers or who feel they have been victimized may contact the Better Business Bureau at (808) 628-3950 or (888) 333-1593 (for neighbor island calls). For more information regarding HPAF, visit http://www.bbb.org/hawaii/hawaii-partnership-against-fraud.
Since 1961, the Hawaii Bankers Association (HBA) has brought together all FDIC-insured depository institutions doing business in Hawaii, including banks, thrifts and a financial services company. The HBA represents its members by advocating for Hawaii's economic vitality and sustainability through collaboration with legislators, regulators and the community. Its members have $44 billion in total assets and employ 7,000 people. For more information about the HBA, visit http://hawaiiba.org/.
BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN - HONOLULU — Although 2,500 miles from the continental United States, Hawaii has joined the list of states temporarily housing unaccompanied minors from Central America who have illegally crossed into America through the Southwest border.
Who's paying the freight? You, the taxpayer.
Some 60,000 Central American youths fleeing drug cartels, human traffickers and gangs have come to the United States in the past few months. That number could reach 90,000 by the end of the year. Politicians, border agents and social service workers call the migration a "humanitarian crisis."
Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesperson the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told Watchdog.org that "between January 1 and July 7, a total of eight minors were discharged from the unaccompanied alien children program to sponsors in Hawaii."
Wolfe couldn't offer any details on the ages and countries of origin of the children, where the children are now living, or who their Hawaii sponsors are. However, he added the sponsors are "mostly family members of the child. In fact, more than half are parents of the minor."
Federal taxpayers cover the cost of transportation and housing for the refugee children, including their airfare to Hawaii, Wolfe said.
Federal taxpayers also pay sponsors’ costs of transportation, Wolfe said.
Former Congressman Charles Djou, R-Hawaii, said while he feels for the children and is sympathetic to their plight, he doesn’t believe taxpayers should be covering their airline tickets to Hawaii.
Djou said if children in Central America hear that they could get an all-expense trip paid to Hawaii via the American government, more might cross the border illegally.
"What an incentive," Djou said.
The average length of stay in the program is now less than 30 days, according to Wolfe.
However, Hawaii immigration attorney Clare Hanusz said the children could be here much longer, depending on the immigration court calendar.
Compared with other states, Hawaii’s federal immigration court isn’t busy, she said, and cases can move quickly through the system. However, cases that have special circumstances and require witnesses or experts can take five to six months, she said.
Some Hawaii residents have reached out to Hanusz, a well known immigration attorney with the law firm of Damon Key, to offer the children accommodations and money — and even to adopt them. However, Hanusz said unless the children or their sponsors come forward, no one will know who they are or where they are living.
HONOLULU -- With the shortage of affordable housing options for the moderate income workforce, Hawaii lawmakers today held a joint Senate and House informational briefing to learn more about affordable housing needs in Hawaii.
Senators and representatives heard from various government agencies to learn about the status of existing and planned affordable housing projects, and their plans to address the growing need for affordable housing as the state’s population and housing demands increase.
“We convened this informational briefing because there’s an urgent need for affordable housing,” said Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services. “And it’s necessary that we get everyone involved at each level and at the same table to discuss where we are at, what we are doing and what needs to be done to meet the housing needs of Hawaii's residents.”
In 2011, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC) released the Hawaii Housing Planning Study which revealed 50,000 new units needed to be built between 2012 and 2016 to meet demands. Of that number, based on HUD income guidelines, about 19,000 are needed for household incomes of 80 percent of area median income (AMI) and below. (This is $43,250 for 1-person household, and $61,750 for 4-person household). HHFDC has procured a new updated study that will be released later this year.
“Hawaii’s workforce deserves to live in housing they can afford,” said Rep. Mark Hashem, chair of the House Committee on Housing. “Nearly half of Hawaii’s homeless population are working persons who are unable to afford steady permanent housing. In addition to addressing the housing shortage for those at AMI, we also need to ensure there is enough help for hard-working low-income individuals to obtain housing units.”
During the briefing, lawmakers questioned the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) about reserved housing requirements for workforce housing in the Kakaako district.
“Our constituents remain concerned that developers are reserving affordable housing units at the 140% of AMI mark, which is not reasonable for many of Hawaii’s working population,” said Chun Oakland. “HCDA needs to be doing more to address the housing needs of the people at 100% of AMI and below.”
Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Government Operations and Housing, questioned the siloed approach to planning for affordable housing projects for transit oriented development (TOD).
“It seems like all agencies have their own plan and no one is working together,” said Dela Cruz. “Instead of this siloed approach to workforce housing in relation to TOD, there must be an overall statewide approach. There’s going to be housing located around the various TOD stations. Why are we not working together?”
This past session, the legislature created a TOD Working Group to bring together all major players to plan for the future in a comprehensive and succinct way.
Sen. Will Espero, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, expounded on the effect veterans returning home will have on Hawaii’s housing needs in the future.
“Our veterans fought for our nation’s principles of freedom and liberty and deserve to raise their families in housing they can afford,” said Senator Will Espero, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs. “As our veterans return home, we need to ensure they have access to services to ensure a smooth transition back to civilian life.”
Other issues related to affordable housing discussed included the growing number of people on the waitlist of public housing and Hawaiian homelands. In public housing, there is approximately 30,000 people waitlisted (using three people per family as the average). That is about 10,000 families on the waitlist. For Hawaiian homelands, 26,926 applicants are waitlisted and 43,080 applicants are pending.
During the 2014 Legislative Session, lawmakers approved measures to help with affordable housing. They include:
SB2542 (Act 163) - Restores the allocation of conveyance tax collections to the rental housing trust fund to 50% beginning July 1, 2014. It is estimated that this law will generate $33,100,000 for the Rental Housing Trust Fund, which is used to leverage funds for the building of affordable housing units.
HB2251 (Act 162) - Increases the Hula Mae Multifamily Revenue Bond authorization limit from $750 million to $1 billion. The program will help first-time buyers afford a 30-year mortgage at a competitive rate and provides down payment assistance. There’s a high demand for this type of financing and in 2013 the total dollar value of requests exceeded the amount available. Increasing this amount will allow for the continuation of development and preservation of affordable housing for lower income households.
The following government agencies who provided testimony include Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC), Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL), Hawaii Public Housing Authority (HPHA), Department of Defense, City and County of Honolulu’s Office of Housing.
The entirety of the hearing can be viewed online at http://olelo.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=13/XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
See all of the briefing material here: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2014/testimony/INFO_TESTIMONY_HMS-EGH-PSM-HSG_07-23-14.pdf
BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN - HONOLULU — New statistics released by the state Department of Human Services show about a quarter of Hawaii’s population relies on Medicaid.
Of Hawaii’s 1.3 million people, some 320,000 qualify for the government health-care program.
According to the state Department of Human Services, the number of people on federal health-care subsidies in Hawaii has jumped since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Hawaii in October.
State figures show net enrollment increased 12 percent between Oct. 1 and June 30.
“The target is for all Hawaii residents to have health insurance. As an entitlement program, Medicaid plays an important role,” said Kayla Rosenfeld, a state Department of Human Services spokeswoman.
The Medicaid program is jointly funded by the federal government and states, according to Medicaid.gov, with the federal government paying states for a specified percentage of program expenditures — the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage. The percentage varies by state based on criteria such as per capita income, averaging about 57 percent but going as high as 82 percent.
Criteria for Medicaid recipients depends on the eligibility group, which can include children, pregnant women, parents and other caretaker relatives, adults, individuals determined on the basis of being aged, blind, or disabled, Rosenfeld said.
Under new federal guidelines established under President Obama, recipients have no limits on assets, but for the new eligibility group authorized under the ACA, adults must have an income at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, Rosenfeld said.
To handle the expected boom in enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, the Department was awarded a $100 million federal grant to build an “eligibility system” to process the applications.
The state hired KPMG, which built the online web portal KOLEA, enhanced the State’s IT infrastructure and added new functionality such as document imaging. The state contracted with the company to perform maintenance and operations over the next two years.
While state legislators said Tuesday in a House hearing they've gotten complaints about the system, Rosenfeld said KOLEA processed 250,000 individual eligibility determinations and redeterminations between Oct. 1 and June 30.
Timeliness in processing applications has also improved, Rosenfeld said, noting as of June the average application approval takes 13 days, compared with 32 days in previous months.
The state has appropriated another $400,000 for the program for this fiscal year to enhance DHS operations and policies surrounding security for the system, including determining who should have access, Rosenfeld said. The state has issued a request-for-information proposal to solicit private bidders on the project.
Hawaii’s political landscape is largely dominated by Democrats, which control the state administration, the Legislature and its congressional seat. There are no Republicans in Congress and just eight in a state Legislature of 76 . The majority of Hawaii’s elected politicians believe heavy dependence on Medicaid is a positive step for Hawaii; their goal is to eliminate the state's remaining 6 percent who are uninsured.
Other federal and state subsidies are heavily used in Hawaii, including SNAP or food stamps. As of June, 194,865 people and 99,320 households received SNAP benefits, Rosenfeld said.
An August 2013 report by Cato Institute, which examines the state-by-state value of welfare for a mother of two, said benefits in Hawaii average $49,175 — tops in the nation.
Michael Tanner, co-author of the Cato study, said that since welfare isn’t taxed, a person would have to earn $60,590 in Hawaii to take home the $49,175 for someone on welfare.
Part of the plan for the Department’s new and improved eligibility system web portal – and the state’s Obamacare web site, HawaiiHealthConnector.com — involves qualifying even more people for Medicaid and other government benefits through a one-stop shop.
BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN - HONOLULU — The Hawaii Health Connector, has been unable to produce a fully functional website since it launched in October.
That's especially troubling, because CGI Group got $53 million for its creation and another $20 million for operation and maintenance.
A separate $100 million web portal operated by the state Department of Human Services and designed by KPMG to connect Hawaii residents with Medicaid services has been problematic, leading the department to set aside another $400,000 to fix the software.
Lawmakers questioned connector and state officials about reports of residents unable to get insurance or being delayed after applying for subsidies and getting directed instead to the Department of Human Services’ Medicaid site, Kolea. The two websites “didn’t play well together” as one lawmaker noted, leaving some 11,000 applications unprocessed.
The state’s chief information officer, Keone Kali, told House lawmakers in a hearing Tuesday his department plans to create another more user-friendly site, a one-stop shop to process requests for health insurance and Medicaid.
Until the site is built, Kali is proposing a web link and page be added to Hawaii.gov web site, which houses information on all state agencies, to drive traffic to Affordable Care Act and Medicaid sign ups, which could be done at minimal cost.
"I'm really skeptical any of this you're talking about is going to happen, but it is heartening to hear you say it's going to be a low-cost portal," said House Health Committee Chair Della Au Belatti, D, Makiki, who co-chaired the hearing.
The state’s goal is getting at least 100,000 people – 8 percent of the population – to obtain health insurance through the Obamacare exchange. A state report estimated half were eligible for Medicaid.
After spending or allocating the majority of a $204 million federal Affordable Care Act grant, just more than 8,500 people signed up for health care through the exchange as of the spring deadline.
Another 26,010 people enrolled in Medicaid between summer 2013 and April this year, according to a July 11 report by WalletHub — 2014 Health Insurance Coverage Report. In total, 28.01 percent of Hawaii’s population younger than 64 is on Medicaid, the July 11 report said.
Tom Matsuda, the connector's interim executive director, provided some updated enrollment figures, saying the connector and Medicaid sign-ups are at 43,746 as of this month, but he didn’t provide a breakdown between the two.
Hawaii has the fourth-lowest uninsured rate in the country. Just three other states ranked higher than Hawaii in terms of its uninsured population, including Massachusetts — 1.20 percent — Rhode Island — 5.60 percent — and the District of Columbia — 6.29 percent, the WalletHub report showed.
Many people in Hawaii already had health insurance because of a 1976 Hawaii Prepaid Healthcare law, which requires employers to provide health-care coverage to their employees if they work at least 20 hours a week.
Belatti said she is concerned about the money the connector and Department of Human Services are spending on technology that isn’t working properly, and how the systems and the connector will be sustained going forward.
The Legislature allocated $1.5 million to the Obamacare exchange operations for 2015.
Matsuda said the connector will continue to seek ways to use the remainder of the $204 million grant set to expire at the end of 2014, as well as look for ways to reduce expenses and boost revenues.
The connector’s only source of revenue, besides government grants and subsidies, are fees charged to insurance companies, including a 2 percent sign-up fee for each plan booked.
HONOLULU – Diamond Bakery, a locally-owned cracker and cookie company with a mission of Sharing Heartwarming Aloha, recently announced a company-wide project to help Hawaii’s less fortunate.
“We are 100% committed in our support of IHS, The Institute for Human Services, and its dedication to provide respite for those who are unsheltered to help transform their lives,” said Brent Kunimoto, president of Diamond Bakery. “Giving back to those less fortunate in our community is always a top priority for us so we’re mobilizing our employees to do what we can to help IHS continue to make a difference in this escalating situation.”
According to June Namba, Diamond Bakery customer coordinator, “I love to help those who are less fortunate because it makes me appreciate more of what I have. We’re always complaining about not having this or that in life but, when you’re looking at people in real need, it makes you feel like you already have a lot!”
IHS is currently the only 24-hour walk-in, emergency shelter on Oahu, providing a full range of services to anyone who may be homeless or are in danger of becoming homeless. Of their eight major service areas, Diamond Bakery is focusing on their Community Food Programs – specifically the IHS Meal Program which serves three hot meals a day, seven days a week. For more information on The Institute for Human Services, visit http://www.ihshawaii.org/.
During the weekday work hours when IHS can use the most help, Diamond Bakery employees are providing hands-on assistance preparing meals. Luckily, IHS’s close proximity to Diamond Bakery’s location makes it convenient for employee participation.
“As a company doing business in Hawaii for more than 90 years, Diamond Bakery truly cares about people. The efforts of our employee volunteers giving of their time, energy and aloha to share Heartwarming Aloha that our founders valued so much is priceless,” added Kunimoto. “Our goal is to have 100% employee participation so the Institute of Human Services is the first partner to benefit from our new policy to pay employees two days a year to perform charity work.
“I was thrilled and proud to learn about the work volunteer opportunity the company is giving us,” said Bryan Sabado, Diamond Bakery production worker. “I’m excited and looking forward to being part of the giving back process!”
Diamond Bakery was founded in 1921 as a dream between three friends to create the perfect Hawaiian-made cracker. Through the founders’ dedication, sacrifice and secret ingredient of “Heartwarming Aloha”, Diamond Bakery has grown to become a household name in Hawaii and the demand keeps growing for the company’s Hawaiian crackers and cookies.
In 2009, Diamond Bakery filled a much-needed niche selling sea biscuits—what most locals know as Saloon Pilot crackers—along the continental East Coast. Distribution of products has also expanded to Japan and the South Pacific, allowing Diamond Bakery to share heartwarming aloha with people throughout the world.
Open for over 90 years, the company is located on Oahu and was named after the famous Diamond Head landmark.
WHAT: The purpose of this informational briefing is to receive updates from the Hawaii Health Connector and various state agencies regarding the continued implementation of Hawaii’s insurance exchange and other matters relating to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including updates on preparations for the next open enrollment period for individuals and reports on the status of Medicaid enrollment and eligibility determinations through either the Health Connector or the Department of Human Services KOLEA system.
The following individuals or representatives from their organizations are invited to attend:
1. Tom Matsuda, Interim Executive Director, Hawaii Health Connector
2. Keone Kali, Chief Information Officer, Office of Information Management & Technology
3. Patricia McManaman, Director, Department of Human Services
4. David M. Louie, Attorney General, Department of the Attorney General
5. Gordon Ito, Insurance Commissioner, Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs
WHEN: Monday, July 21, 2014
WHERE: Conference Room 325
415 South Beretania Street
HONOLULU – Gov. Neil Abercrombie today announced the nominations of Jonathan Scheuer to the Land Use Commission (LUC), as well as Rona Fukumoto and Edwin Taira to the Board of Directors of the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC), effective immediately. All are interim appointments subject to state Senate approval.
Scheuer was appointed to an at-large seat and is the first LUC appointee to fill vacancies left by five recent resignations on the nine-member commission.
For HHFDC, Fukumoto was appointed to the “community advocate for low-income housing affiliated with a private nonprofit” seat, and Taira to the Hawaii County seat. Two vacancies remain on HHFDC, also a nine-member board, which likewise had multiple resignations recently.
“Filling vacancies on the Land Use Commission is a top priority for the administration right now so commissioners can resume decision-making,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “The appointments to HHFDC were expedited to avoid interruption of its duties. I thank Jonathan, Rona and Ed for quickly stepping up to accept their nominations to ensure that the public continues to be served.”
Jonathan Scheuer of Honolulu has 25 years of experience in policy and land management in the public, nonprofit and private sectors. Since 1990, he has run his own consulting practice helping clients manage conflicts over natural resources. Scheuer was also land management director for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) from 2006 to 2010 and a policy analyst for OHA from 2004 to 2006. He has been a lecturer at the University of Hawaii (UH) at Manoa, a fellow with the Land Assets Division of Kamehameha Schools, staff lead for the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Natural Area Reserves System Commission, and a legislative aide to Rep. Jim Shon. Scheuer currently serves on the Board of the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust and with the Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter. His previous public service includes serving as vice chair of the Oahu Island Burial Council and work with the Oahu Land Trust, Malama Manoa and Malama Hawaii. An Iolani School graduate, Scheuer holds bachelor’s and Ph.D. degrees in environmental studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a master’s degree from the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Rona Fukumoto of Honolulu is currently division administrator for Catholic Charities Hawaii’s Housing Assistance and Referral Programs, and is the nonprofit’s former director of intake, information and referral. Prior to that, she worked her way up from employment specialist to vice president and director of employment and community programs at Winners at Work from 1995 to 2004. Fukumoto also served as an educational specialist and office assistant at UH Manoa’s KOKUA Program. She currently volunteers as a member of the Catholic Charities Housing Development Corporation and Hawaii State Department of Human Services Financial Assistance Advisory Council, and is a former member of the Hawaii Parkinson Association. Fukumoto also volunteers for Project Dana, providing respite care through home visits to elderly individuals. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in public administration from UH Manoa.
Edwin Taira, a resident of Hilo, has more than 30 years of housing experience that includes management, program and development background. He previously served as housing administrator, assistant housing administrator and development division head for Hawaii County’s Office of Housing and Community Development. While there, Taira gained experience with the U.S. Department of Labor Workforce Investment Act, along with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 and Community Development Block Grant programs. His development experience includes numerous affordable for sale and rental projects. Taira has served on the Hawaii Community Reinvestment Corporation and the Rental Housing Trust Fund Commission, and has been a private consultant for HHFDC and private developers. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UH Manoa.
Land Use Commission
The State Land Use Law was adopted in 1961, establishing a framework of land use management and regulation in which all state lands are classified into urban, rural, agricultural or conservation districts. The Legislature established the Land Use Commission to administer this statewide zoning law. The commission is responsible for preserving and protecting Hawaii’s lands and encouraging those uses to which the lands are best suited.
Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation
The mission of the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation is to increase and preserve the supply of workforce and affordable housing statewide by providing leadership, tools and resources to facilitate housing development.
The Office of the Governor oversees more than 180 boards and commissions established by the state constitution, statues or executive orders.
BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN - HONOLULU – Homeless from Hawaii, Micronesia, American Samoa, Thailand and the U.S. mainland are finding nooks in parks, on beaches, aside drainage ditches, in front of small businesses, and even along the Honolulu freeways where in record numbers, they are building their own communities.
While politicians debate various laws and solutions with homeless advocates, tourism leaders and business owners, the numbers of those living on the streets continue to climb, rising 32 percent over the past five years to at least 6,300, according to Department of Housing and Urban Development figures.
Some homeless residents interviewed for this story said they came to Hawaii to visit the islands from the mainland using their monthly government subsidy checks, but didn't have enough money to return home, or rent a hotel room or an apartment, so have been sleeping on the street.
Now one state representative is urging the governor to use taxpayer money to buy homeless from out of state a ride home.
Rep. Rida Cabanilla, D- Ewa Beach, wants Gov. Neil Abercrombie to implement the ‘Return to Home’ program, a pilot program signed into law last June. The program sets aside $100,000 over three years to buy homeless from the U.S. Mainland one-way airfare tickets to their home state so they can reunite with their families.
Buying airline tickets for homeless from the mainland will reduce the ever growing problem of homelessness in Hawaii by ensuring homeless can reconnect with family and support networks in their hometown, and save Hawaii taxpayers millions of dollars in welfare costs that would have been spent on homeless individuals who have traveled to live in the state, Cabanilla said.
However, the governor has not released the funds and the state Department of Human Services, the agency which establishes and administers the program under state law, has refused to implement the program.
“This appropriation is much needed to decrease the homeless population in our state, to return these stranded homeless individuals from the mainland to an environment of their choosing, and most importantly to preserve these funds for our own homeless kamaaina. Let us implore the Governor to release the money and create the program,” Cabanilla said.
The governor declined to comment and referred all inquires to the Department of Human Services.
Patricia McManaman, director for the Department of Human Services, said at this time the DHS has no plans to implement the program established by the Legislature in 2013.
“The Department of Human Services believes the Return to Home program is an invitation to purchase a one-way ticket to Hawaii with expectations of a guaranteed return flight home. This expectation is particularly high when the State is managing the program and paying for the ticket,” McManaman said.
McManaman said her agency applauds the Waikiki Improvement Association and its member hotels, restaurants, and other businesses, that are proposing a privately funded Return to Home program for homeless individuals.
“A Return to Home program is best supported by the community through private donations and individual charities, and not the State,” McManaman said.
She noted the Hawaii State Legislature appropriated $100,000 for the Return to Home program, but under the legislation, the agency was required to create a database to track program participants, to secure appropriate travel documentation, to screen for outstanding bench warrants or pending criminal cases, to locate family or friends willing to provide housing and support for the individuals upon their return, to provide transportation to the airport, to counsel individuals on airport logistics, and to assure that participants also were provided with education on hygiene.
“No additional staffing was provided to the DHS to implement these program requirements,” McManahan said.
Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, said he agrees the program is counter productive, will not solve any major part of the homeless problem and simply encourage more people to come here, or be sent here, knowing they can get a free ride home on the state taxpayers' dime.
“Politicians always think first, and erroneously, about throwing money - not their own - at problems. All that does is waste money that could be used for better outcomes,” Slom said.
Reach Malia Zimmerman at Malia@hawaiireporter.com
HONOLULU — Hawaii’s Senate minority leader is telling Gov. Neil Abercrombie to reduce spending.
Excise tax revenue in the first quarter of 2014 is down 4.6 percent over last year, and the drop is a clear sign Hawaii’s economy hasn’t turned a corner, Republican Sam Slom said.
“When you talk to small business owners in various industries across the state, it becomes apparent that many businesses have not yet recovered from the recession,” Slom said.
Abercrombie recently vetoed a portion of House Bill 1700, the state budget bill, cutting $14 million and fixing a $444 million inconsistency between the budget bill and the bond authorization bill. Both bills were prepared in part by his gubernatorial opponent, Senate Ways and Means Chair David Ige, D-Aiea.
While Slom is pleased Abercrombie curbed a portion of the government overspending by restricting 10 percent, or $14 million, of state discretionary spending, he urged the governor to make further cuts to avoid the current $450 million biannual budget deficit from growing.
The news is drastically different from just months ago. In January, just days before the 2014 legislative session began, the governor announced the state had $844 million in unbudgeted revenue and pronounced the economy strong and growing.
“While the Legislature entered this year’s legislative session with a governor boasting of a record high surplus of $844 million and a very optimistic outlook of the state’s economy while skirting the subject of our state’s unfunded liabilities of over $22 billion, it is becoming more and more apparent that the growth spurt in our economy was short-lived,” Slom said. “Based on the recently released tax collection report, it is even more important we tighten our belts and identify sensible cuts for the long-term to ride this slow recovery out,” Slom said.
The Council on Revenues, the organization that predicts the state’s economic growth, validated his assessment, Slom said.
The council, made up largely of economists, downgraded the state revenue growth projections from 4.1 percent at the beginning of the year to 3.3 percent shortly prior to the legislative session. The organization then downgraded the growth projection further to 0 percent on March 11, and May 29 to a minus 0.4 percent. The Legislature bases its budget on the council’s projections.
Slom maintains the recent negative 0.4 percent projection of state revenue “is still overly optimistic.”
The Federal Bureau of Economic Analysis’ downgrade from a minus 1 percent growth for real gross domestic product for the first quarter of 2014 to a minus 2.9 percent, which, by far, is the worst quarter since the recovery began in mid-2009, is also alarming, Slom said.
“If the general excise tax collections for the first quarter of 2014 as well as the recently released U.S. GDP statistics are taken into account, further downgrades of state revenues should be expected,” Slom said.
Reach Malia Zimmerman at Malia@hawaiireporter.com
Register to VOTE NOW! Tomorrow, Thursday, July 10, is the deadline for voter registration IF you are a first time voter, have moved, or had a name change. It is so easy to register and update your information if you need to, so do it. You should have received an informational mailer. Next, attend candidate forums, watch debates on TV, and ASK anyone who comes to your door where they stand on issues important to you. Vote for the BEST candidate, not someone's relative or friend. Registering is only the first step; don't forget to VOTE this year. Your vote is important. The Hawaii Primary Election is looming: Saturday, August 9. You do have real choices.
Veto Deadline. Today is the deadline for the Governor to actually veto the last remaining bills from the 2014 Legislative Session. On June 23, Abercrombie originally announced a list of 10 bills he was considering to veto. Subsequently, after a storm of citizen protest, he removed, SB 2682, the Financial Disclosure Transparency bill and will let it become law without his signature. The other bills are less controversial.
Yesterday he indicated he was going to veto 7 bills:
RELATING TO ORDER OF SUCCESSION
RELATING TO PARENTAL PARITY
RELATING TO THE REPEAL OF NON-GENERAL FUNDS
RELATING TO VICTIMS OF CRIMES
RELATING TO THE HAWAII TOURISM AUTHORITY
RELATING TO LAW ENFORCEMENT
RELATING TO THE BOARD OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES
In any event, the Democrat Legislature is unlikely to meet to override the Democrat Governor.
Guv Says This Is The Best Ever. On the Hawaii PBS "Insights" TV program last Thursday night, Gov. Neil Abercrombie and his Democrat challenger, State Senator David Ige, fielded a wide range of questions. Many had to do with the state budget and economy. At one point, Abercrombie, taking credit for the economic "recovery" he sees, made the following stunning statement: "Hawaii is now better off than its ever been before" What? Is Neil back on weed? Are you, your family, and your small business better off today in Hawaii then you were four years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago? Maybe some people are, but the vast number of families and small businesses are struggling like never before. Thank God for free speech; anyone can say anything. (Except conservatives).
Winners at Camp. July 20-26 is the next Winners' Camp Hawaii event for teenagers. The dynamic Delorese Gregoire heads up this wonderful organization and proven change for young adults. Delorese is the battery power for every successful event. Still time to get information and to sign up your teen or tween ages 12 to 15. Call 306-8008 or go to www.winnerscamp.com
Obama the "Worst?" Assume your saw the story by Jim Malone, widely reprinted last week, that said, a new U.S. poll shows Americans think President Barack Obama is the country's worst president since World War II.
The independent Quinnipiac University poll said its survey of more than 1,400 U.S. voters showed that 33 percent put Obama at the bottom of the list of 12 presidents who have served since 1945, with 28 percent naming his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush.
Ronald Reagan, the U.S. president through most of the 1980s, was picked by 35 percent as the best president since World War II. He was followed by Bill Clinton, who served in the 1990s, who was preferred by 18 percent.
The Quinnipiac survey showed voters now think, by a 45 to 38 percent margin, the country would have been better off if GOP Candidate Mitt Romney had won the election.
In the survey, Obama got negative grades for his handling of the economy, foreign policy, health care and terrorism, with those polled only giving him a favorable rating on environmental issues.
Obama continues to try to rally supporters in the wake of weak poll numbers and some recent political setbacks. And, he is still beloved by more than 60% of Hawaii voters.
State Hospital Investigation. After the Senate Special Investigating Committee took a day to visit with state hospital employees behind closed doors in Kaneohe, the Committee will resume its hearings on employee abuse at the Capitol. The next hearing, open to the public, and televised on O'lelo, will resume at 11 am, Wednesday, July 19, in room 016 in the State Capitol.
Drones Over Hawaii. The first of two scheduled deployments of unmanned aircraft systems over the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands showed they can be used to conduct research without harming the region's fragile ecosystem, federal scientists said yesterday.
From June 16-23, scientists conducted research in the islands using an unmanned aircraft system deployed from NOAA Ship Hi'ialakai. Researchers from NOAA and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service used the Puma system to perform surveys of monk seals, sea turtles, sea birds and vegetation and to look for marine debris in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
A second deployment of a longer range system is scheduled for next week. The aircraft completed seven flights: one over Trig Island and four over Tern Island, both at French Frigate Shoals; and two at Nihoa. Researchers said they were pleased with the results.
Hawea Volunteers Needed Saturday. Volunteers are needed this Saturday, July 12, 8:30 - 11:30 am, at the Hawea/Keawawa wetland in Hawaii Kai (6864 Hawaii Kai Drive next to Oahu Club, by Keahole Street) to clean up and beautify the property on Wetland Work Day. All community volunteers welcome. The project is ably managed by the Livable Hawaii Kai Hui.
WalMart Open. The new downtown (Fort Street Mall) WalMart retail store is open on the former site of Liberty House and Macy's. More than 100 employees were hired.
UH Community Campuses Recognized. Three University of Hawai'i community college campuses have made a national list of low-cost public two-year institutions. The U.S. Department of Education listed Leeward Community College, Kapi'olani Community College and Honolulu Community College among 95 public two-year institutions with the lowest net price. Link here>
The national average cost of attending a public two-year institution in academic year 2011-12 was $7,163. The U.S. DOE lists Leeward CC's net price at $1,745; Kapi'olani CC at $3,752; and Honolulu CC at $3,882 for academic year 2011-12.
This year's U.S. DOE data also lists institutions with the highest change in net price. The University of Hawai'i is not listed among them.
Paving, Paving. Two major highway rebuilding and repaving projects are now underway: Kamehameha Highway and Kalanianaole Highway from Aina Haina to Hanauma Bay (Eastbound at first). These projects, with lane closures, will continue through February 2016.
Gas Prices Steady. Despite regular fluctuations in oil trading prices because of international unrest, gasoline prices in Hawaii have remained relatively steady - and high - during the past month. COSTCO still remains the best bet for saving at $4.029 (regular) compared to an average of $4.359 and above elsewhere.
Home Prices Top $700k. According to the Honolulu Board of Realtors® the new median price of a single family home on O'ahu has climbed to $700,000 in June. The median for a condominium is $360,000. Aaah, affordable housing lives.
Business Leadership Conference Next Week. Next Tuesday, July 15, Hawaii Business Magazine will host the first annual Leadership Development Conference dedicated to the advancement of emerging leaders and young professionals. SBH is a co-partner for the event.
The aim is to cultivate a community rich in innovation and success by focusing on the development of Hawaii's ambitious and up-and-coming leaders. The event will be held in the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel, 10:00am - 5:30pm.
The featured keynote is Dusty Baker, former Manager with the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants.
Other Featured Speakers:
* Duane Kurisu, AIO Hawaii
* Keith Amemiya, Island Insurance
* Rick Blangiardi, Hawaii News Now
* Gordon Bruce, Pacxa
* Eddie Flores, Jr., L&L Hawaiian Barbecue
* Sarah Guay, ProService Hawaii
* Allan Ikawa, Big Island Candies
* John Komeiji, Hawaiian Telcom
* Micah Kane, Pacific Links
* Kathryn Matayoshi, Hawaii DOE
* Sherry Menor-McNamara, Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii
* Jayson Miller, ProService Hawaii
* Scott Simon, Simon Leadership Group
* Kent Untermann, Pictures Plus
Hosted Lunch. All day Expo for networking and sponsor/partner display tables. Contact Courtney Wagner at Hawaii Business, by phone at 808.534.7164 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Next SBH SUNRISE Coming. The next SBH SUNRISE Networking Breakfast will be held Thursday, July 31, 7 - 8:30 am, in the Pineapple Room, Macy's Ala Moana Center.
It is a great place to meet new people and do business. Good for those running for office to talk to real small business owners! Networking, full buffet breakfast and interesting and informative speaker. All participants introduced and permitted to promote their business. Advance reservations required. Call me at SBH, 396-1724 (or cell 349-5438) for info and to make reservations.
Newly formed Maui Chamber Orchestra has exclusive arrangements penned for them. Paul Janes-Brown reports, when Robert E. Wills, the conductor and music director of the newly formed Maui Chamber Orchestra, selected Gabriel Faure's Cantique de Jean Racine for the inaugural upcoming concerts on Aug 8 and 10 at the Iao Theater, he looked high and low for an arrangement of the piece for chamber orchestra. He searched in all of the major publishing houses and even approached other orchestras, all he could find was work that was available for rental, which would stretch the limited budget of the fledgling organization. The other arrangements did not have the instrumentation required by the Maui Chamber Orchestra.
Wills, who spent many years in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area had a friend, Layton "Skip" James, the long-time, retired principal keyboardist for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. James had done many orchestrations and arrangements over the years, many for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
"Cantique de Jean Racine is a composition that won first prize at the Paris Conservatoire for its young composer, Gabriel Fauré, in 1865, who was 19 at the time. Originally for SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) chorus and piano/organ, it was orchestrated perhaps by the composer in 1906, and arranged by many others during the 20th century to fit various sized performing groups."
Tickets for the inaugural concerts of the Maui Chamber Orchestra featuring the Maui Masterworks Choir on August 8 and 10 at the Iao Theater are available at www.mauichamberorchestra.org/home or by calling 242-6969 Monday, Wednesday and Friday 11 am to 3 pm.
Want More Business? JOIN SBH! Is YOUR business a member of SBH? No? Lots of benefits. Strong networking organization. Call 396-1724 or go online to smartbusinesshawaii.com.
Hawaii Reporter.com, Hawaii's first electronic daily newspaper launched in 2002, has all the breaking news and unlike other publications in town, is still free. Award winning Hawaii Reporter and Malia Zimmerman report daily (M-F) on the Rick Hamada Show heard on KHVH radio on 830 AM at 7:05 am. Malia will share the news behind the news.
Tune in to Panos Prevedouros. SBH Director and UH Engineering Professor Dr. Panos Prevedouros is a weekly guest on Rick Hamada's morning radio show every Tuesday from 7:05 a.m. to 8 am. Tune in!