In my past years of traveling more than 125,000 miles per year, Hawaii had been a favorite destination, and I have many fond memories of the tropical islands.
The economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has hit Hawaii the hardest of all 50 states. The state depends almost entirely on tourism and now has the highest unemployment rate in the nation. Ironically, this downturn affects the service industry, the one sure, safe zone during previous recessions.
In the middle of March 2020, the $18 billion vibrant tourism industry came to a screeching halt. Hotels and restaurants in the tourist area are empty and when they reopen, the need for social distance will continue.
In the meantime, in Hawaii, the local artists have no buyers/tourists to purchase their artwork. The musicians and entertainers have no audience. Taxis have no fares, tourists’ sites have no ticket buyers, and even the Big Kahuna’s have no students to pay for surfing lessons.
The CARES Act
The federal government has come through with The CARES Act economic initiative.
Congress has enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to offer financial assistance to businesses impacted by COVID-19. The CARES Act provides potentially $376 billion in assistance and is administered by the Federal Small Business Administration. The funds are available via 4 different fund options.
- The “Paycheck Protection Program” (PPP) is meant to help businesses retain their employees.
- The “Economic Injury Disaster Loan” (EIDL) is a loan for up to $10,000 which may be forgiven.
- SBA Express Bridge Loan is for a business that already has a relationship with an SBA lender.
- SBA Debt Relief is a program that can defer payments on existing SBA loans.
Hawaii, Time to Pivot
Years ago, the Rustbelt states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania had a period of high unemployment because of their dependency on manufacturing jobs. They made the painful decision to diversify their state’s economy and successfully improved their employment statistics.
Locally, each state needs to examine its own economic health. This collapse of tourism in Hawaii has reignited the debate about the diversification of their economy to other sectors.
Until then, Hawaiians need to help their fellow islanders to survive. Government programs, loans, and grants are available in limited capacities. The locals who now must survive without the tourists need to step up to the plate and conduct themselves in society, in ways that help and not harm one another.
The islanders of Hawaii, and the rest of us, as a nation, must act honestly, justly, and with due concern for the vulnerable in our local community. The political leaders must exercise integrity more than ever. We are living in extraordinary times, and we must act in extraordinary ways. Front line first responders are showing us the way, as they risk their lives to go to work every day to keep society safe.
Is it safe to go out?
I thought about when I would feel comfortable enough to go to an airport and board an airplane again. Not anytime soon! First, I would need to be comfortable getting back to my own personal out-of-the-house errands and routines. Then I would need to wait and see how the numbers stabilize. Then and only then, would I consider the risks to my health and my wife, in taking any trip as a tourist. Any place I go to I would need to ask myself, how is the health system there. “What if?”
Yes, if it sounds like it, correctly so – I am very fearful and dealing with a lot of anxiety. I have a grandchild getting married in September and have not booked my flights or hotel reservations.
Tara Parker-Pope in The Science of Helping Out:
“At a time when we are all experiencing an extraordinary level of stress, science offers a simple and effective way to bolster our own emotional health. To help yourself, start by helping others. Much of the scientific research on resilience – which is our ability to bounce back from adversity – has shown that having a sense of purpose, and giving support to others, has a significant impact on our well -being.”
Today we are cleaning out our food pantry and donating unopened packages to the local food bank to help others. We continue to contact old friends and neighbors to keep in touch and see how they are coping. We support our local food stores and don our face masks and wear latex gloves in order to help flatten the curve.