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Residents in Hawaii Have the MOST Money Taken Out of Their Paychecks

According to a study from GoBankingRates, workers in Hawaii get the most money taken out of their paycheck. An employee here making $50,000 a year will get a $1,923.08 paycheck, assuming a biweekly pay cycle.

In Hawaii, $542.24 of that will go to pay for things like the Federal Insurance Contributions Act taxes (FICA), which is a tax used to fund older Americans’ Social Security and Medicare benefits.

In addition to a high state income tax (8.25%), locals in Hawaii have more money withheld from their paychecks thanks to items like the State Disability Insurance (SDI), which is only applicable in four other states.

While Hawaii leads the charge on money withheld, there is some close competition. Other states taking the most out of your paycheck include Oregon ($538.05), Idaho ($528.93), South Carolina ($524.95) and Minnesota ($515.93).

Commentary: Consequences of HB1586 – Relating to Taxation

There will be unintended consequences if HB1586 passes, especially if the disbursement of transit accommodation tax revenue to the counties is eliminated. The County of Hawaii receives 19.5 million dollars in TAT funds. This is their second highest funding
source after property taxes.

The TAT revenue source is used to the mitigate the impact of tourism industry on each county. I firmly believe the residents of each county shouldn’t have to pay entire cost for lifeguard, police, fire, etc services used by these tourists.

The elimination of this funding source will force the county to increase taxes on all property classes, not just on properties owned by wealthy off island homeowners. This will undoubtedly passed on to homeowners, who rent out to individuals (and families) with lower incomes.

These individuals (and families) would be seeing relief in state taxes, but they’ll be seeing higher rental costs as a result. These folks are living on the edge and can ill afford to pay more for rental housing.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Hawaii Tax Reform Bill Passes Committee

House Bill 1586, which attempts to change the basic structure of taxes in Hawaii, was passed by the House Tourism Committee Tuesday.

The bill not only addresses Hawaii’s high cost of living by reducing personal income tax brackets for low and middle income earners and seniors, but also looks at how the counties’ property tax rates are one of the primary reasons for the State’s high housing costs.

“Our residents, especially low and middle income taxpayers, are paying too much income tax,” said Rep. Kyle T. Yamashita, “At the same time, non-residents can buy homes in Hawaii, with the nation’s lowest property tax rates, and yet in most cases, they pay no income tax to the State. This has the effect of keeping the cost of buying a home out of the reach of many of Hawaii’s people and causing property valuation to continuously rise.”

The bill would also end the $103 million subsidy the state provides to the counties from a portion of the Transit Accommodations Tax. Removing this subsidy would make up for part of the reductions in personal income tax collections and encourage the counties to raise property taxes for non-residents and other categories that affect the rising housing costs, Yamashita said.

“We need to restructure how we tax to fuel positive economic outcomes. We cannot continue to make band-aid changes to our tax structure and think anything will really change,” said Yamashita. “This bill is the first step in making taxes more equitable for residents and, if the counties follow suit, will make investors buying homes in Hawaii pay their fair share.”

Free Home Ownership Seminar

Becoming a homeowner is one of the most important steps in a person’s life, and there’s a lot of prep work to do before checking out housing listings. To help prospective buyers become happy homeowners, Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union (HCFCU) is hosting “ABC’s of Home Ownership” — a free educational seminar that will be held on Wednesday, February 22, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m at HCFCU’s Kaloko Facility in the John Y. Iwane Credit Union Center Training Room (73-5611 Olowalu Street, Kailua-Kona, HI).  To register for this free seminar or for additional information, contact the HCFCU Call Center at 930-7700 or marketing@hicommfcu.com.  Seating is limited.

73-5611 Olowalu Street, Kailua-Kona, HI

Presented by Reina Miyamoto, Program Director of the Hawaii Home Ownership Center, attendees will receive important information that will help them understand home ownership requirements, as well as inform them of potential obstacles to purchasing a home, such as:

  • Having too much debt (student loans, credit card, etc.)
  • Not having enough money for a down payment
  • Not knowing where to find accurate and reliable information

The Hawaii Home Ownership Center, a non-profit organization, provides information and services needed to become a homeowner, including home buyer education, one-on-one coaching, and more.

Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit credit union owned by its over 40,000 member/owners with branches in Honokaa, Kailua-Kona, Kaloko, Kealakekua and Kohala.  In addition to complete checking and savings services, the credit union offers credit cards, auto, mortgage, construction, small business, educational and personal loans; online and mobile banking; investment services; youth programs and supports numerous Hawaii Island programs and events.  Membership in Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union is open to all Hawaii Island residents. For more information visit www.hicommfcu.com.

Roosevelt High School Wins Lifesmarts Hawaii State Competition

High school teams from across the state today participated in the 13th annual LifeSmarts Hawaii competition, held at the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus Center Ballroom. The game-show style competition tested students on their knowledge of personal finance, health and safety, the environment, technology, and consumer rights and responsibilities.

Pete Cagianno and Moanike’ala Nabarro of KITV News served as emcees of today’s competition.”

The final four teams competing today included Maryknoll, Pearl City, Roosevelt and Waiakea High Schools.  After testing their skills through written tests, a “speed smarts” activity, and gameshow style buzzer rounds, the team from Roosevelt High School emerged as this year’s state champion. Members of the team are: Bryan Kitsu (team captain), Zeheng Huang, Hajin Jang, William Li, and Elvis Tran. The team was coached by Brian Lock.

The winner of today’s state competition will now represent Hawaii at the National LifeSmarts Competition in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from April 21 – 24, 2017.

“Participation in the LifeSmarts Hawaii program has increased over the years and it is very exciting to see these students take an interest in something that will provide them with valuable real-life skills,” said Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) Director Catherine Awakuni Colón.  “Congratulations to all of the teams that participated today. I wish Roosevelt all the best as they continue on to the national competition.”

“We commend all the student competitors, their parents and coaches for the time, energy and support they dedicated in preparation for today’s competition,” said Acting Securities Commissioner Henry Tanji.

LifeSmarts is an educational program that prepares students to enter the real world as smart consumers by teaching them the skills needed to succeed in today’s global marketplace. The program is run by the National Consumers League and locally by the DCCA Office of the Securities Commissioner, in partnership with the Hawaii Credit Union League.

Local sponsors for the Hawaii State Competition include:

  • Better Business Bureau (BBB) Foundation of Hawaii, Inc.
  • Coastal Construction Co., Inc.
  • Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs – Office of the Director
  • Experian
  • Hawaii Construction Alliance
  • Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters
  • International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers, Local 1
  • Laborers’ International Union of North America, Local 368
  • Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3
  • Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ Union, Local 630
  • Hawaii Council on Economic Education(HCEE)
  • Hawaii Credit Union League
  • Aloha Pacific Federal Credit Union
  • Big Island Federal Credit Union
  • CU Hawaii Federal Credit Union
  • Hawaii State Federal Credit Union
  • Hawaiian Electric Employees  Federal Credit Union
  • Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union
  • Oahu Federal Credit Union
  • Pearl Hawaii Federal Credit Union
  • Schofield Federal Credit Union
  • Hawaii Government Employees Association, Local 152
  • Hawaii Prince Hotel
  • HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union Foundation
  • HMSA
  • OtterBox
  • Pasha Group and Pasha Hawaii
  • State of Hawaii, Department of the Attorney General, Crime Prevention and Justice Assistance Division, Community and Crime Prevention Branch
  • United Public Workers AFSCME, Local 646
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa Financial Literacy Program
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa Shidler College of Business Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE)

More information about the LifeSmarts Hawaii program can be found at www.LifeSmartsHawaii.com.

Hawaii’s Economy Continues to Expand

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) released its first quarter 2017 Statistical and Economic Report, which shows Hawaii’s economy continues to expand at a slightly reduced rate.

Click to view full report

According to the most recent data released on Feb. 2 from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Hawaii’s economic growth rate during the first three quarters of 2016 was 2.1 percent, higher than the U.S. economic growth rate of 1.4 percent during the same time period.

“Hawaii had a great year in 2016 with 14,000 new payroll jobs created,” said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria.  “Almost every sector saw job increases except state government and wholesale trade.  Our unemployment rate was the fourth lowest in the nation in 2016, and we expect our economic condition to remain stable in 2017.”

DBEDT revised its projection on Hawaii’s economic growth, as measured by the growth of real gross domestic product (GDP), to 1.8 percent for 2017, slightly lower than the 1.9 percent projection made in the previous quarter.

“The downward adjustment in Hawaii’s economic growth for 2017 was mainly due to the new projection on visitor expenditures for 2017,” said Chief State Economist Eugene Tian.  “We expect visitor arrivals will reach more than 9 million in 2017, about the same as we forecasted in the previous quarter.  However, we now expect visitor days will grow by 1.4 percent in 2017, lower than the 2 percent we forecasted in November 2016.  We will see fewer or slower growth from those longer length-of-stay markets such as Oceania, Canada, Europe, and U.S. West.  The slower growth in visitor days will lead to slower growth in visitor expenditures.”

According to DBEDT, passenger count data, total passengers to Hawaii increased 3.8 percent in January 2017, as compared with the same month last year. Passengers on domestic flights increased 2.2 percent and passengers on international flights increased 8.1 percent.

The end of 2016 saw historic high levels of labor force, employment and payroll job count.  Statewide unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) fell to 2.6 percent by the end of the year.  By December 2016, unemployment rates of all the counties fell below 3 percent, except Hawaii County where unemployment rate was slightly higher than others, at 3.1 percent.

In 2016, four sectors were the main driving forces for job gains: construction, tourism, health care and professional services.  Construction led the job gain at 4,600; followed by Food Services and Drinking Places at 2,800; Health Care and Social Assistance at 2,500; Accommodations at 1,000; and Professional and Business Services added 900 jobs.

In 2016, initial unemployment claims decreased by 6.4 percent.  However, the decrease occurred mostly in the beginning months of the year. Since October 2016, initial unemployment claims have been higher than the same period in the previous year, and the trend continued into January 2017.

In 2016, total visitor arrivals increased 3 percent and visitor expenditures increased 4.2 percent, both were higher than projected by DBEDT.

At of the end of 2016, value of private building permits was down by 18.2 percent.  Value of commercial and industrial permits decreased the most at 70 percent, while residential permits decreased by 12.3 percent.  Value of additions and alterations decreased by 1.7 percent.

According to the February 2017 Blue Chip Economic Indicators, most of the economies in the world will see steady economic growth in 2017 and 2018, especially the three major Hawaii visitor source countries – U.S., Canada, and Japan.  The U.S. economy will expand 2.3 percent, Canadian economy will grow 1.9 percent, and Japanese economy will increase 1 percent in 2017, where all of the growth rates are higher than those experienced in 2016.

With the economic data currently available, DBEDT expects that the economic growth rate will be 1.8 percent in 2017, and will slightly decrease to 1.6 percent by year 2020.

Non-agriculture payroll job count will grow by 1.2 percent in 2017, the same as projected in the previous quarter. Job growth is projected to be at 1.1 percent for the years after 2017.

DBEDT expects the unemployment rate will increase slightly in 2017 to 3.4 percent and will rise to 3.6 percent in 2020.

Nominal (no inflation adjustment) personal income is projected to grow at around 4.7 to 4.8 percent during the next few years, same as the projection in the previous quarter.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Hawaii personal income grew by 4.5 percent during the first three quarters of 2016.  DBEDT projects that real personal income will increase in the neighborhood of 2.5 percent in the next few years.

DBEDT lowered its projection on the consumer inflation rates to a range between 2.3 and 2.5 percent during the 2017-2020 period.  The actual consumer inflation rate in 2016, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, was 2 percent, lower than the 2.3 percent projected by DBEDT in November 2016.

The DBEDT Quarterly Statistical and Economic Report contains more than 120 tables of the most recent quarterly data on Hawaii’s economy as well as narrative explanations of the trends in these data.

The full report is available at: dbedt.hawaii.gov/economic/qser/.

Hawaiian Air Line Pilots Reach Preliminary Contract Agreement

The Hawaiian Airlines Master Executive Council (HAL MEC) met today to consider changes to our PWA that have been negotiated by our pilot group’s Negotiating Committee, assisted by ALPA’s professional negotiators, financial advisors and benefits experts.

Hawaiian Air line Pilots reach preliminary contract agreement

We are pleased to announce that we have reached an Agreement-in-Principle (AIP) with Hawaiian Airlines that is subject to completion of a few parts of remaining contract language. The MEC resolution passed today, by a 3-1 vote, is attached to this message.

We believe that remaining language will only take a few days to complete. As soon as that happens, the MEC will reconvene to formally consider the merits of the tentative agreement (TA). If approved by the MEC, we will ask each active member to participate in the democratic process of our Union and decide whether it deserves ratification.

Before that, please know that there will be plenty of time to read the actual draft contract language, attend presentations that cover all changes, ask questions and get them answered, and then cast your vote. There will be no rush.

MEC members are already receiving calls, texts, emails and questions. It’s clear from many of these that facts are in very short supply. We urge everyone to wait until you have clear facts, the chance to ask questions and get them answered, and the opportunity for our pilot group to have respectful discussions and make our collective decision.

In the meantime, and to make sure that basic facts are known, you should be aware of a few key facts. Other less significant improvements and changes also deserve your attention and will be explained later.

  • The final agreement is much improved from the offer that the Company communicated to you in November;
  • Pay rates have been substantially improved and represent the competitive market for pilots and recent contract settlements. If a tentative agreement is approved and ratified:

o   12-year A330 Captain rates will be $290 on the date of signing, increase to $300 in 2017, and reach $337 in the last year of the PWA;

o   12-year B767 Captain rates will be $240 on the date of signing, increase to $250 in 2017, and reach $281 in the last year of the PWA;

o   12-year A321 Captain rates will be $235 on the date of signing, increase to $245 in 2017, and reach $275 in the last year of the PWA;

o   12-year B717 Captain rates will be $210 on the date of signing, increase to $220 in 2017, and reach $247 in the last year of the PWA.

  • The First Officer percentage of Captain’s pay (the “FO slope”) will increase immediately.
  • All HA pilots will receive very substantial ratification bonus payments consistent with industry rates that would have been in place for the equipment each of us has flown since the amendable date of the contract.
  • Our trip rig has been significantly enhanced (3.5:1) to provide more pay and credit for inefficient pairings.
  • An average min day (Minimum Flight Grouping Credit) has been established that provides pay and credit for inefficient trips.
  • Recurrent training pay and credit has been increased.
  • Retiree health benefits have been monetized and secured by a VEBA trust like the one that exists for our LTD benefits. That means that our retiree health benefits will continue to be industry leading, and be protected against merger or Company economic downturns.

Your unity and support have made this accomplishment possible, and we look forward to sharing full details with you in the near future.  Until then we urge you to avoid speculation, be skeptical of rumors, and continue to do the outstanding work you do each day.

HAL MEC

Island Air Announces Flight Expansion Plans

476 flights each week between O‘ahu, Maui, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i Island, compared to the 266 flights per week it currently offers

With the addition of new Q400 aircraft to its fleet, Island Air has begun increasing the number of interisland flights to its schedule.

Island Air’s first new Q400 aircraft, named Ola Kūpono, which means “safety in everything we do,” began service on January 12, 2017. Photo courtesy of island Air

Over the next four months, Island Air plans to phase in new regularly scheduled flights that will significantly increase its roundtrip service between Oʻahu and the neighbor islands. The number of daily roundtrip flights between Honolulu and Kahului will double to 16; between Honolulu and Kona will increase from six to 10; and the number of daily roundtrip flights between Honolulu and Līhu‘e will grow from six to eight. The airline will also add flights to accommodate high travel days (Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays) and spring break travel demands.

By the beginning of May, Island Air expects to offer up to 476 flights each week between O‘ahu, Maui, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i Island, compared to the 266 flights per week it currently offers.

“The added flight service is in response to growing demand from our customers and travel partners and also reflects the improved operational efficiencies of the new Q400 aircraft that are being phased into our fleet” said David Uchiyama, president and chief executive officer of Island Air. “The entire Island Air team remains focused on enhancing the interisland travel experience for residents and visitors, which includes providing more convenient options to island hop, either for business or to enjoy a weekend getaway or visit.”

Island Air’s first new Q400 began service on January 12. The aircraft is 30 percent faster than conventional turboprops, resulting in shorter flight times, which enables Island Air to operate more flights each day. The airline plans to add up to seven new Q400s by the end of the year and will transition its existing fleet of five ATR-72 aircraft out of service.

Island Air currently offers eight roundtrips daily between Honolulu and Kahului (one flight was added on Feb. 1), with three additional roundtrips on Fridays and Sundays; six roundtrips daily between Honolulu and Kona, with one additional roundtrip on Fridays and Sundays; and six roundtrips daily between Honolulu and Līhu‘e.

Island Air’s flight schedule can be viewed at: https://www.islandair.com/flight-schedules

 

16th Annual Feed-A-Thon Begins February 8th

Caring for Hawaii Island’s hungry has always been a challenge once the holidays have passed, as food donations slow down.  Fortunately, Kahikina Ching — the founder and organizer of the 16th Annual Food Basket Feed-A-Thon, has scheduled 10 days this month where residents and visitors may continue to help families in need.

Supported each year by Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union (HCFCU), this unique food drive will be held at HCFCU branches from Honoka`a to Kealakekua, and at select KTA Superstores around the island.

Food items and monetary donations will be accepted at all HCFCU branches Wednesday, February 8th through Friday, February 17th.  HCFCU staff will also sell special ribbons with all contributions going directly to the Food Basket.  See below for branch locations and hours.  For more information, please contact marketing@hicommfcu.com or 808-930-7700.

“Every day during the Feed-A-Thon we see our members and staff donating money and canned food. Whether it’s just one can or one dollar, every donation helps,” said Tricia Buskirk, Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union President  & CEO.  “It’s so uplifting to experience these type of activities that strengthen our community as we show compassion, caring and understanding for one another.”

Tommy “Kahikina” Ching collecting food at the 2014 Annual Feed-A-Thon. The Food Basket photo.

Kahikina Ching will be at every KTA Superstore location during the dates and times below thanking people for their donations. Food and monetary donations are equally welcomed, because money donated is used to purchase food from KTA at wholesale prices.  According to Ching, “I can feed six people for just $2!”  To date, the Feed-A-Thon has provided more than one million pounds of food since the event began in 2002.

According to En Young, The Food Basket’s Executive Director, “Kahikina’s Feed-a-thon has always been a perfect complement to the services of The Food Basket. Through his activities we can continue to provide food for those who aren’t currently in a position to provide for themselves.”

Food and monetary donations may be brought to any HCFCU branch:

  • Kaloko: 73-5611 Olowalu St., Kailua-Kona, HI 96740; Phone: (808) 930-7700; Monday through Friday 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
  • Kailua-Kona: 75-159 Hualalai Road, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740; Phone: (808) 930-7700;
  • Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Friday 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Saturday 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • Kealakekua: 81-6631 Mamalahoa Hwy., Kealakekua, HI 96750; Phone: (808) 930-7700; Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Friday 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Kohala: 54-396 Union Mill Road, Kapaau, HI 96755; Phone: (808) 930-7700; Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Friday 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Honoka’a: 45-690 Pakalana St., Suite A, Honoka’a, HI 96727; Phone: (808) 930-7700; Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Friday 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

KTA Super Store locations and dates are:

  • February 8-9: KTA – Kailua-Kona  (Kona Coast Shopping Center, 74-5594 Palani Road, (808) 329-1677).
  • February 10-11: Waikoloa Village Market (Waikoloa Highlands Center, 68-3916 Paniolo Avenue, Waikoloa Village (808) 883-1088).
  • February 12-13: KTA – Waimea Center (65-1158 Mamalahoa Highway, Kamuela, (808) 885-8866).
  • February 14-15: KTA – Puainako (50 East Puainako Street, Hilo, (808) 959-9111).
  • February 16-17: KTA – Keauhou (Keauhou Shopping Center, 78-6831 Ali`i Drive, (808) 322-2311).

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Lawmakers Call For Reinstatement of Glass-Steagall

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) joined 26 Members of Congress in introducing the Return to Prudent Banking Act today. The bipartisan legislation, endorsed by Public Citizen and the AFL-CIO, would reinstate important consumer protections put in place after the Great Depression and require separation between commercial and investment banking.

(Left to right) Reps. Walter B. Jones, Tim Ryan, Tulsi Gabbard, and Marcy Kaptur call for a reinstatement of Glass-Steagall.

“From the Great Depression through the turn of the 21st Century, Glass-Steagall helped keep our economy safe. Repealing it allowed too-big-to-fail banks to gamble with the savings and livelihoods of the American people, with devastating, irrevocable consequences. Hawaiʻi, along with communities across the country, paid the price in 2008 with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Today, the banks that were “too big to fail” in 2008 are even bigger and more powerful now. We must reinstate Glass-Steagall and create a financial system that works for every American—not just Wall Street banks,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)

“The 2008 crash nearly took down our entire economy and led to the great recession which wiped out average Americans’ income. But now, Democrats and Republicans have memorialized support for Glass-Steagall in their respective political platforms. Even President Trump has declared his support for a new Glass-Steagall law,” said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-09). “That is why we are here, to build on the momentum and the movement to reinstate Glass-Stegall.”

“Wall Street banks should not be allowed to use taxpayer-insured consumer deposits to gamble in the markets and then get taxpayer bailouts for failed decisions,” said Congressman Walter B. Jones (NC-03). “It’s time to put American taxpayers and depositors first.  It’s time to pass the Return to Prudent Banking Act and reinstate Glass-Steagall.”

“I am proud to cosponsor the Return to Prudent Banking Act, which revives the separation between commercial banking and securities companies as written in the Glass-Steagall Act. These are smart financial reforms designed to protect our economy from another financial crisis and hardworking American taxpayers from another Wall Street collapse. We know that the climate of deregulation led to the financial crisis. We can’t let that happen again,” said Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13).

Background: In 1933, the Banking Act—also known as the Glass-Steagall Act—passed amid an atmosphere of chaos and uncertainty to address banking failures of the Great Depression. The goal of its lead cosponsors, Rep. Henry Steagall and Sen. Carter Glass, was to separate commercial and investment banking and restore confidence in the American banking system.

In 1999, Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act and removed the barriers between investment banking and traditional depository banks. This action gave financial institutions and investment firms access to the deposits of the American consumer, which then were used to gamble on the Wall Street casino. This misguided deregulation allowed the creation of giant financial supermarkets—that could own investment banks, commercial banks, and insurance firms—and created companies too big and intertwined to fail. This lack of regulation also allowed Wall Street to leverage their debt past sustainable ratios using consumer mutual funds and the pension accounts of American workers as collateral.

Hilo Community Supports State Efforts to Redevelop Banyan Drive and East Hawaii

Tonight at the Hilo Innovation Center in downtown Hilo business leaders, community leaders, tenants and lessees came together to listen to the Hilo Economic Development Plan presented by Jim McCully, spokesman of the Kanoelehua Industrial Area Association (KIAA).

Nearly 100 folks crowded the center and listened to presentations by McCully, HPM Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Jason Fujmoto and later on Senator Kai Kahele dropped in to say a few words.

SB1292/HB1479RELATING TO THE HILO COMMUNITY ECONOMIC DISTRICT.

Establishes the Hilo Community Economic District located in East Hawai`i and places it under the jurisdiction of the Hawai`i Community Development Authority.

SB1184/HB1310RELATING TO THE WAIAKEA PENINSULA REDEVELOPMENT DISTRICT.

Establishes the Waiakea Peninsula Redevelopment District, Planning Committee and Revolving Fund.

Jason Fujimoto opened the meeting explaining why the meeting was called together. Fujimoto stated, “I know to some that the words economic revitalization may sound big and scary but in my mind it really boils down to the definition of community and community is a place where we live, where we work, where we learn and where we play and all of the components that make that happen.”

Fujimoto turned the microphone over to Jim McCully who explained some of the history of Banyan Drive and why economic development throughout all of Hilo, especially areas like KIAA are so important.

Senator Kai Kahele was able to make the end of the meeting and he stressed how important it was for the community to stand behind all the bills introduced this session and to contact our State legislators that will hear the bills in committee. He also thanked the broad range of community members that attended and also thanked his fellow Hawaii Island Legislators, Hawaii County Council members as well as the County of Hawaii Planning Department for their support and collaboration.

Office of Consumer Protection Announces Settlement with Western Union

The State of Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection today announced a settlement with Colorado-based The Western Union Company, resolving a multistate investigation which focused on complaints of consumers who used Western Union’s wire transfer service to send money to third parties involved in schemes to defraud consumers.  In addition to Hawaii, 48 states and the District of Columbia participated in this settlement.

“Scammers prey on our citizens with bogus telemarketing and mail scams on a daily basis.” “We believe that the anti-fraud program outlined in this settlement will make it harder for them to succeed,” said Office of Consumer Protection Executive Director, Stephen H. Levins.

According to Levins, “The biggest sign of a scam is if someone asks you to wire money to recover your winnings.” “This is the reason why Federal law bars telemarketers from receiving payments through money transfer, such as provided by companies like Western Union or MoneyGram.”

The settlement requires Western Union to develop and put into action a comprehensive anti-fraud program designed to help detect and prevent incidents where consumers who have been the victims of fraud use Western Union to wire money to scam artists.

That anti-fraud program, which Western Union has agreed to evaluate and update as warranted, includes the following elements:

  • Anti-fraud warnings on send forms that consumers use to wire money;
  • Mandatory and appropriate training and education for Western Union’s agents about fraud-induced wire transfers;
  • Heightened anti-fraud procedures when warranted by circumstances such as increased fraud complaints;
  • Due diligence checks on Western Union agents who process money transfers;
  • Monitoring of Western Union agent activity related to prevention of fraud-induced money transfers;
  • Prompt and appropriate disciplinary action against Western Union agents who fail to follow required protocols concerning anti-fraud measures;

Western Union also has agreed to pay a total of $5 million to the states for the states’ costs and fees, from which Hawaii will receive approximately $46,000. In addition to this settlement with the states, Western Union also settled claims related to fraud-induced transfers with the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice that was announced on January 19, 2017.  As part of those related settlements, Western Union has agreed to pay $586 million to a fund that the Department of Justice will administer to provide refunds to victims of fraud induced wire transfers nationwide, including victims in Hawaii.

In addition to Hawaii the following participated in the settlement: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.

Business Community to Host Meeting on Legislative Efforts to Revitalize Hilo and Banyan Drive

On Tuesday, January 31, a coalition of individuals and organizations focused on improving the East Hawaii economy will hold a community meeting to discuss legislative efforts that will guide in the revitalization of Hilo and Banyan Drive.

The coalition includes Kanoelehua Industrial Association (KIAA), Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry Hawaii (JCCIH) and Hawaii Island Economic Development Board (HIEDB).

The public is invited to attend and hear from coalition representatives and area legislators on the various, proposed economic development measures that have been introduced this legislative session (see full list below). The measures are aimed at providing much-needed tools and mechanisms to attract investment and foster partnerships that will help revitalize the local economy while promoting a healthy environment where East Hawaii families can thrive.

  • When: Tuesday, January 31
  • Time: 4:30–5:30pm
  • Location: Hawaii Innovation Center, 117 Keawe Street in Hilo, Room #105 (corner of Keawe and Kalakaua Streets)
  • Parking: Street parking only

After the community meeting, the coalition will work with the public and the Hawaii Island delegation to advocate for the various proposed measures (full list and descriptions below, with links to download bills).

The coalition thanks the hard working East Hawaii Caucus that introduced the bills: Representative Mark Nakashima, Representative Richard Onishi, Representative Joy San Buenaventura, Representative Christopher Todd, Senator Lorraine Inouye, Senator Kaialii Kahele, and Senator Russell Ruderman

List of 2017 29th Legislature bills promoting East Hawaii’s economic interests introduced by members of the East Hawaii caucus:

HB 575 / SB 274 – Authorizes the Board of Land and Natural Resources to extend state land leases when the lessee makes qualifying substantial improvements to leased public lands. Download HB 575, SB 274.

HB 1310 / SB 1184 – Establishes the Waiakea Peninsula Redevelopment District, Planning Committee, and Revolving Fund. Download HB 1310, SB 1184. 

HB 1469 / SB 1185 – Establishes procedures for designating public land redevelopment districts, planning committees (including powers and duties), district redevelopment plans, and designated revolving funds. Modifies public land lease restrictions. Download HB 1469, SB 1185.

HB 1479 / SB 1292 – Establishes the Hilo community economic district and places it under the jurisdiction of the Hawaii Community Development Authority. Establishes a revolving economic development fund and designates a percentage to be transferred to the special land and development fund under the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Download HB 1479, SB 1292.

Hawaii Insurance Consumers Encouraged to Explore Options

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Insurance Division released its annual premium comparison publications for motor vehicle, homeowner, condominium, and renters insurance.

“These publications help consumers make the right decisions for their insurance needs,” said Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito.  “We encourage people to use these guides as a tool to shop and compare for the appropriate coverage and price.”

The lists of sample premium rates can be used as a guide to see what consumers’ insurers are charging compared to its competitors.  The premium publications help consumers research and explore options and ensure greater competition in the insurance marketplace.

Feel free to download and share the consumer information below. If you have any questions, please contact the Insurance Division at (808) 586-2790 or insurance@dcca.hawaii.gov.

(PDF) Insurance Division Overview

Health Insurance

(PDF) Hawaii Patients’ Bill of Rights

(PDF) 2017 ACA Individual Rates

(PDF) 2016 ACA Small Group Rates

Small Business Health Options (SHOP)

Home Insurance

(PDF) Homeowners Premium Comparison Publication 2017

(PDF) Condominium Unit Owners Premium Comparison Publication 2017

(PDF) Renters Premium Comparison Publication 2017

Prior Home Insurance Premium Comparisons

Motor Vehicle Insurance

(PDF) Motor Vehicle Insurance Premium Comparison & Consumer Complaints Publication 2017

Prior Motor Vehicle Insurance Premium Comparisons

Natural Disasters

(PDF) Lava Flow Informational Brochure

(PDF) Tips for Storm Claims

(PDF) Guide to Hurricane Strengthening for Hawaii Single-Family Residences

Insurance Fraud

(PDF) What is Insurance Fraud?

National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)

Insure U – Get Smart About Insurance

VIDEO: Senator Kahele Announcing the “Hilo Community Economic District” Bill

Senator Kai Kahele announces the “Hilo Community Economic District” Senate Bill that he is about to introduce during the 2017 Hawaii State Legislature.

Building on the work of the Banyan Drive Hawai‘i Redevelopment Agency, this bill will expand the application and scope of their effort and move toward crafting a master plan of all state lands in the Hilo urban core, including Banyan Drive, Wailoa State Park, Kanoelehua Industrial Area, the Hilo International Airport and Pier, and other nearby state lands.

“This initiative combines the strengths of the public sector, private enterprise, and the community to conduct long-range planning and community building unlocking the economic potential of East Hawaiʻi,” said Sen. Kahele. “This is truly a game-changer for Hilo. With this kind of synergy, we can build a Hilo for the future. A Hilo that our children can thrive in.”

Open Application Period Underway for Preschool Open Doors Program

The Department of Human Services encourages families to apply for its Preschool Open Doors (POD) program, which is currently open until Friday, March 31, 2017.  Applications received during this period will be considered for preschool participation during July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018.

This program, which currently serves more than 1,500 children statewide, provides child care subsidies to eligible low- and moderate-income families to pay preschool tuition. POD aims to provide children whose families might otherwise not be able to afford preschool the opportunity to gain essential skills to be successful in school and in life.

To qualify for the program, children must be eligible to enter kindergarten in the 2018-2019 school year (born between August 1, 2012 and July 31, 2013). Families are reminded that a child must be five years old on or before July 31 to enter kindergarten. Families may choose any one of the 433 state-licensed preschools. Underserved or at-risk children receive priority consideration for the POD program, and funds are limited.

Interested families may request an application from the Department’s POD contractor, PATCH, by visiting www.patchhawaii.org or calling 791-2130 or toll free 1-800-746-5620.  PATCH can also help families locate a preschool convenient for them.

Applications must be received by March 31, 2017 to be considered during the July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018 program period. Applications should be dropped off, mailed, faxed, or emailed to the following:

PATCH – POD
560 N. Nimitz Hwy, Suite 218
Honolulu, HI 96817
Fax: (808) 694-3066
Email: PODAdmin@patch-hi.org

Eligibility and priorities for POD program selection are detailed in HAR §17-799, which is available online at humanservices.hawaii.gov/admin-rules-2/admin-rules-for-programs. For more information about other DHS programs and services, visit humanservices.hawaii.gov

Hawaiian Electric Companies to Offer Discounted Medical Needs Rate

The Hawaiian Electric Companies will offer a special medical needs discount rate for customers of all three companies. This pilot is subject to Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approval to go into effect on April 1, 2017 for two years.

Up to 2,000 customers dependent on life support equipment or increased heating and cooling needs due to a medical condition verified by a physician may save up to $20 a month on the first 500 kWh of energy use. Use above 500 kWh will be charged at regular residential rates.

“Everyone depends on electricity, but for some with special medical needs it can be a life or death matter,” said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president for customer service. “We believe most people will agree that providing a little financial relief for some of our neighbors is the right thing to do.”

Applications will be made available online, subject to commission approval, and will require a licensed physician’s signature. To qualify, a customer or a full-time resident in the customer’s home must be:

  • Dependent on life-support devices used in the home to sustain life or relied upon for mobility as determined by a licensed physician, including but not limited to: aerosol tents; apnea monitors; hemodialysis machines; compressors; electric nerve stimulators; pressure pumps; electrostatic nebulizers; and intermittent positive pressure breathing machines.
  • A paraplegic, hemiplegic, quadriplegic, multiple sclerosis or scleroderma patient with special heating and/or cooling needs.

Based on the number of applicants, the Hawaiian Electric Companies will determine whether to continue the rate after two years.

Residential customers with anyone in the home dependent on life support or emergency equipment are encouraged to inform their island utility of that fact by calling customer service today so they can be notified about future planned maintenance outages. However, because unplanned outages can occur, it is essential that customers with life support or emergency equipment needs make alternate plans should the power go out.

Smoking Costs the Average Hawaii Smoker $2,048,587 Over a Lifetime

With the societal and economic costs of smoking totaling more than $300 billion a year and rising, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on The Real Cost of Smoking by State.

To encourage the estimated 36.5 million tobacco users in the U.S. to kick the dangerous habit, WalletHub’s analysts calculated the potential monetary losses — including the lifetime and annual costs of a cigarette pack per day, health care expenditures, income losses and other costs — brought on by smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.

The Financial Cost of Smoking in Hawaii (1=Lowest, 25=Avg.):

  • Out-of-Pocket Cost per Smoker – $167,535 (Rank: 48th)
  • Financial-Opportunity Cost per Smoker – $1,411,246 (Rank: 48th)
  • Health-Care Cost per Smoker – $173,258 (Rank: 32nd)
  • Income Loss per Smoker – $283,621 (Rank: 46th)
  • Other Costs per Smoker – $12,926 (Rank: 36th)
  • Total Cost Over a Lifetime per Smoker: $2,048,587
  • Total Cost per Year per Smoker: $40,168

For the full report, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/the-financial-cost-of-smoking-by-state/9520/

Governor Ige Announces Increases in Shelter Beds Through New State Contracts

Gov. David Ige announced the state Department of Human Services will award contracts to 33 homeless shelters. Funding will total $13,000,000 for 12 months. The new contracts require shelters to focus on outcome measures such as the number of people they will permanently house over the coming year.

Photo by Sean King

The results of the competitive bids show a net increase in state-funded homeless shelter beds, with 3,761 for the next year vs. 3,577 for last year. Additionally, the shelters are proposing to double the number of people they place in permanent housing from approximately 3,000 to 6,200.

“This is about more than increasing shelter beds,” said Gov. Ige. “It’s about increasing results. For the same taxpayer investment as last year, we’re doubling the number of people getting housed. We are finding better solutions, getting better efficiency, and creating better cooperation.”

The Request for Bids (RFP) process was open to all shelters statewide and follows state law which requires shelters to increase accountability, privacy, and safety for residents while moving people more quickly into permanent housing. In accordance with the state procurement process, shelters were encouraged to ask questions about the RFPs and received written answers. Revisions were made to the RFP based on their feedback. A written record can be found on the state’s procurement office website at:

http://gpcprod.spo.hawaii.gov/spo2/health/rfp103f/detail.php?id=MTI1Mw==&hs=e53b7f8e4919fbec14cb2c182ab6b247.

Contracts will be effective as of Feb. 1, 2017. All state-funded shelters will receive training by the Department of Human Service’s Homeless Programs Office.

Shelter RFP Award Listing

Bed Count Projections

Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light to Seek More Renewable Energy for Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Hawaii Island

Consistent with the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ updated energy action plans, Maui Electric Company and Hawaii Electric Light Company has asked the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to start the process to seek new renewable energy generation on Maui, Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi and Hawaii Island. To ensure customers benefit from these projects as soon as possible, this effort is targeting projects that can be in service by the end of 2020.

The energy plan update, submitted to the PUC on Dec. 23, 2016, envisions achieving 100 percent renewable energy on Molokai by 2020, Lānaʻi by 2030, and Maui and Hawaii Island by 2040.

Following established regulatory rules, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light are asking the PUC to open dockets to facilitate issuing formal requests for proposals (RFPs) for new renewable energy projects and to appoint an independent observer (IO) to oversee the procurement process. A separate RFP would be issued for each island. Appointing an independent observer early in the process would allow the collaborative design of the RFPs and associated technical, operational, and performance requirements for renewable energy proposals. Once the PUC approves the RFP design, the companies will release the RFPs that will provide details to prospective bidders on the renewable energy being sought for each island.

“On Hawaii Island, nearly 50 percent of our energy is produced from renewable sources,” said Jay Ignacio, Hawaii Electric Light president. “We’ll continue to pursue projects that are clean, sustainable, reliable, and can result in lower bills for our customers.”

Maui Island is currently at more than 35 percent renewable energy.

“While our energy plans are still under review, we need to move forward in seeking more renewable energy for the benefit of our customers,” said Sharon Suzuki, Maui Electric president. “It’s critical that we move quickly in seeking potential projects that can help meet our state’s clean energy milestones.”

Hawaiian Electric is awaiting approval from the PUC for a similar request for Oahu submitted in June 2016.