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HTA Offers Funding to Programs Supporting Hawaiian Culture, Hawaii’s Natural Resources and Community-Based Events in 2018

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) announced today that funding support will be provided to qualified applicants for programs in 2018 that perpetuate Hawaiian culture, preserve Hawaii’s natural resources and present community-based festivals and events.


Funding will be awarded through a request for proposals (RFPs) process for three HTA programs, Kukulu Ola, Aloha Aina and Community Enrichment, which are offered to help improve the quality of life for residents and enhance the visitor experience for tourists.

“How we celebrate the Hawaiian culture, protect our environment, and share our way of life in communities is key to Hawaii’s future and why we place such importance in supporting groups and individuals committed to these ideals,” said George D. Szigeti, HTA president and CEO. “These programs help guide how our communities embrace sustainability and uphold the qualities that make the Hawaiian Islands such a magnificent place to live and visit.”

The three programs that HTA has issued RFPs for and will provide funding support to qualified applicants statewide in 2018 are as follows.

  • Kukulu Ola (RFP 17-13): HTA is supporting programs that enhance, strengthen and help to perpetuate the Hawaiian culture by cultural practitioners, craftsmen, musicians and artists.
  • Aloha Aina (RFP 17-14): HTA is supporting programs that help preserve and enhance the quality of Hawaii’s treasured natural resources for the enjoyment of current and future generations.
  • Community Enrichment (RFP 17-12): HTA is supporting community-oriented programs, festivals and special events promoting culture, education, health and wellness, nature, agriculture, sports, technology and “voluntourism” for the enjoyment of residents and visitors.

The deadline for applicants to submit proposals to HTA seeking funding support for their programs in any of the three categories is Friday, August 4, at 4:30 p.m.

Program applications are available at HTA’s website at www.hawaiitourismauthority.org/about-hta/rfps.

All inquiries should be directed to Ronald Rodriguez, HTA procurement officer, via email at contracting@gohta.net or by phone at (808) 973-9449.

RFP Information Sessions HTA is hosting public information sessions on all islands about the application and award process for the RFPs at the following locations. Interested applicants are encouraged to attend and ask questions about receiving funding support.

  • Oahu – Wednesday, July 5, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. , Hawaii Convention Center, Emalani Theatre, 1801 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu
  • Kauai – Thursday, July 6, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m., Lihue Civic Center, Piikoi Building, Meeting Rooms A & B, 4444 Rice Street, Lihue Friday, July 7, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • Kona – West Hawaii Civic Center, Building A, Council Chambers, 74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Highway, Kailua-KonaFriday, July 7, 2:30 – 5:30 p.m.
  • Hilo – County of Hawaii Aging and Disability Resource Center, Training Room, 1055 Kinoole Street, Suite #101, HiloTuesday, July 11, 9:00 – 11:00 a.m.Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Building D
  • Molokai – Tuesday, July 11, 9:00 – 11:00 a.m., Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Building D600,  Maunaloa Highway, Kaunakakai
  • Maui – Monday, July 17, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., Maui Arts and Cultural Center, Alexa Higashi Room, 1 Cameron Way, Kahului
  • Lanai – Monday, July 17, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., Lanai Cultural and Heritage Center, 730 Lanai Avenue, #126, Lanai City

Hawaii Legislative Leaders Target Special Session on Rail for July or August

Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (Kauai, Niihau) and House Speaker Scott K. Saiki (McCully, Kakaako, Kaheka, Downtown) sent a joint letter to the Executive Director of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) advising the FTA of the Legislature’s commitment to convene a special session in July or August.

Click to view full letter

Although no specific dates have been set for the special session and no rail funding mechanism has been agreed upon, Speaker Saiki and President Kouchi said that, “after working with members of our federal delegation, it was deemed necessary and prudent to assure the FTA that the Legislature recognizes and understands the requirements under the Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) between the City and County of Honolulu and the FTA.”

Early Bird Registration for the 2017 Global Tourism Summit Now Available

Early-bird registration offering flexible discounted rates is now available for the 2017 Global Tourism Summit, being presented by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), Sept. 19-21.   Participants can register via the dedicated website, www.globaltourismsummithawaii.com, and choose from one of several options to attend the conference being held at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.


Sustainability is the theme of this year’s summit and how it is incorporated in the future of tourism will be a featured topic of the presentations. The significance of Hawaiian culture, global marketing, technology and innovation will also be highlighted in presentations and panel discussions, with the collective focus on improving tourism in Hawaii and abroad.

George D. Szigeti, HTA president and CEO, said, “The core objective of the Global Tourism Summit is the collaboration and sharing of knowledge to make tourism stronger and better for the Hawaiian Islands and the industry as a whole. Tourism has stakeholders in all walks of life and all around the world and we are encouraging anyone interested in seeing this global industry succeed to participate in the summit, share their insight, and be part of this greater effort for everyone’s future benefit.”

Early-bird registration is available through July 31 for the following discounted rates:

  • Individuals: Full Conference, Sept. 19-21: $325, a savings of $70
  • Groups of 8 or More: Full Conference, Sept. 19-21: $300 per person, a savings of $65 per person (Groups can mix and match different attendees during the conference)
  • Student and Faculty Members: Full Conference, Sept. 19-21: $150
  • Individuals, Partial Conference, Sept. 19-20: $275
  • Individuals, Partial Conference, Sept. 20-21: $265

“We want to be flexible and provide interested attendees, especially those from Hawaii, with options that allow them to participate in the Global Tourism Summit in a way that best meshes with their daily work responsibilities,” said Szigeti.

Information on sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities is also available online at the dedicated website. A complete listing of sessions, programs and speakers will be added in the coming weeks.

Formerly known as the Hawaii Tourism Conference, HTA changed the name to the Global Tourism Summit to more accurately reflect Hawaii’s emergence as a leader in international travel and tourism.

Big Island Chocolate Festival Awards $17,500 to Four Local Beneficiaries

Proceeds totaling $17,500 from the 2017 Big Island Chocolate Festival (BICF) were awarded to four local organizations at the event’s recent volunteer appreciation celebration.

Displaying their beneficiary checks with Kona Cacao Association President Farsheed Bonakdar (center) are from left: Ashley Pendergast of Waimea Country School’s Na Keiki Aloha ‘Aina program, Heidi Noche and Dana Mattos of Kona Dance & Performing Arts, Patti Kimball and Nem Lau of Kona Kohala Chefs Association’s high school culinary program and Kayla Strom and Ambi Diggins of Kona Pacific Public Charter School.

Presented by the Kona Cacao Association (KCA), the BICF is an annual, two-day event offering agricultural and culinary learning experiences and competitions, plus a gala celebration of chocolate. The mission of KCA is to promote the local cacao industry by presenting BICF as an educational and outreach opportunity for cacao farmers, the hospitality industry and cacao enthusiasts. KCA membership is open to anyone wanting to help create a recognizable brand for Hawai‘i Island chocolate.

Mahalo to 2017 BICF event sponsors: Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, Guittard Chocolate Company, Prova, Valrohna USA, Cacao Barry, Barry Callebaut, ChoiceMART, Kona Auto Center, Dolphin Journeys, Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory, Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union, Amoretti, Cocoa Outlet, Kona Brewing Company, Young’s Market, Waialua Estate Coffee & Chocolate, XPress Reprographics, The Spoon Shop, Island Asphalt Maintenance, DHX, Island Air, Republica Del Cacao, The Fairmont Orchid, Hawai‘i, Pivotal Shift Consulting Group, Hawaii Coffee Connection, First American Title and TheWave@92FM.  #BIChocoFest, #ChocolateGold

For more information, visit http://konacacaoassociation.com and www.bigislandchocolatefestival.com.

Older Women in Hawaii are 57% More Likely to Live in Poverty Than Older Men

A new analysis finds that Social Security benefits are especially crucial for older women in Hawaiʻi, who are more likely to live in poverty and less likely to have access to assets or savings in retirement. The report, released by the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, is a first in examining more closely the economic status of older adults in Hawaiʻi by gender and race/ethnicity.

Just over nine percent (9.1 percent) of older women in Hawaiʻi live in poverty, compared with 5.8 percent of older men. Single older women in Hawaiʻi, however, are three times more likely than married older women to be living in poverty (13.0 percent and 4.1 percent poverty rates, respectively). The majority of older women in Hawaiʻi are single, while the majority of older men are married. There are also differences by race/ethnicity: Rates of pension coverage are highest among older Japanese women and lowest among older Filipinas, and rates of marriage also vary, with Filipinas most likely and Native Hawaiian women least likely to be married.

Dr. Colette Browne

“Many of the economic challenges that older women experience stem from inequities that women face earlier in life, including a persistent wage gap, the high cost of child care and a shortage of affordable housing. This builds up over the course of a lifetime and limits women’s ability to lay the foundation for economic security in retirement, especially for the many older single women living without a spouse,” said Dr. Colette Browne, the Richard S. and T. Rose Takasaki Endowed Professor in Social Policy at the School of Social Work and author of the report’s recommendations.

The paper finds that Social Security is the most common source of income for both older men and women in Hawaiʻi, and is especially crucial for women. In Hawaiʻi, nearly 40 percent (39.4 percent) of older women’s annual income is from Social Security, compared with 29 percent of older men’s. Still, Social Security benefits received by older women in Hawaiʻi total about 80 percent of the amount older men receive ($12,000, compared with $15,158).

Older men have greater access to pensions, retirement savings and asset income than older women. Nearly half (47 percent) of older men receive income from a pension or retirement savings plan, compared with just over a third (35.5 percent) of older women in the state. Even for those with a pension or retirement savings plan, women’s median annual income is about 60 percent of men’s ($12,596 compared with $21,344).

The report concludes with recommendations for Hawaiʻi policymakers to focus on strategies and programs that alleviate age-, gender- and race-based inequalities and poverty across the lifespan.

Strategies to address inequity and support the health, educational and employment aspirations of women of every age in Hawaiʻi, coupled with policies that support women with child and elder caregiving responsibilities, such as paid sick days, paid family leave and an affordable and secure long-term care funding mechanism, would bolster women’s financial security throughout their life course and especially in their later years.

“Today’s younger woman is tomorrow’s older woman, so improving the economic status of older women in Hawaiʻi must start with addressing inequality at school, work and home,” said Browne. “But, we must also pay attention to the needs of older women today, and this means honoring women’s contributions to family and community, protecting Social Security and committing ourselves to funding for health and long-term care if and when disabilities occur.

The findings are presented in a paper by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work funded the analysis and authored the paper’s recommendations through the school’s Takasaki Endowment.

For more information, visit: https://iwpr.org/publications/economic-security-older-women-men-hawaii/

Steal a Doritos Locos Tacos From Taco Bell on June 13th

With the Golden State Warriors “stealing a game” from Cleveland Cavaliers in Cleveland… folks around the United States can obtain a FREE Doritos Locos Taco from Taco Bell:
Details:

Consumers may obtain one (1) Free Taco during the Promotion Window on Tuesday, June 13, 2017 while supplies last. To obtain the Free Taco, Eligible Consumers must visit and be in line at any participating Taco Bell® restaurant between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00p.m. on the Redemption Date only and request a Free Taco.

Free Taco will not be offered at a consumer’s request on any other date or time, regardless of circumstance, but Taco Bell reserves the right to change the redemption date at its sole discretion for some or all participating Taco Bell restaurants.

Participating Taco Bell restaurant managers reserve the right to deny Free Taco to any person they reasonably believe has already received a Taco or has engaged in any other fraudulent activity. Free Taco offer is subject to store availability and Taco Bell reserves the right at its sole discretion to substitute an item of equal or greater value due to unavailability; any difference in value will not be awarded. All Taco Bell managers’ decisions are final regarding Free Taco offer.

GENERAL CONDITIONS : As a condition of the offer, each Eligible Consumer who participates in the Promotion agrees (a) to be bound by these Terms and Conditions; (b) to release and hold harmless the National Basketball Association, each of their parent, subsidiary, affiliated and related entities, any entity which, now or in the future, controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with the teams and the owners, general and limited partners, shareholders, directors, officers, employees, agents, representatives, successors and assigns of the foregoing entities (hereinafter, “NBA Entities”), Sponsor and each of their respective affiliates, subsidiaries, retailers, licensees, sales representatives, distributors and franchisees, and each of their officers, directors, employees and agents (“Promotional Parties”) from any and all claims, demands, losses, promises, causes of action, injuries, damages and/or liabilities, that may arise, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from the participation in this Promotion or from the receipt, unavailability or use or misuse of the Free Taco, or any travel or activity related to the receipt or use of the Free Taco; (c) that under no circumstances will Eligible Consumer be permitted to obtain awards for, and Eligible Consumer hereby waives all rights to claim, punitive, incidental, special, consequential, or any other damages, other than for actual out-of-pocket expenses; (d) that all causes of action arising out of or connected with this Promotion or any Free Taco (or the unavailability thereof) or any advertising, marketing, promotion or publicity materials in connection therewith, shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action; (e) that any and all claims, judgments, and award shall be limited to actual out-of-pocket costs incurred, excluding attorneys’ fees and court costs; and (f) that all issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Terms and Conditions, Eligible Consumer’s rights and obligations, or the rights and obligations of the Sponsor in connection with this Promotion, shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the laws of State of California, without giving effect to any choice of law or conflict of law rules. In the event there is a discrepancy or inconsistency between Announcements and these Terms and Conditions, these Terms and Conditions shall prevail, govern and control and the discrepancy will be resolved in Taco Bell’s sole and absolute discretion. This Promotion may be modified or terminated at any time without notice at the sole discretion of Sponsor.

By participating, Eligible Consumers consent to the exclusive jurisdiction and venue of the federal, state and local courts for Irvine, California for the resolution of any disputes related to this Promotion.

Alexander & Baldwin Acquires Five Buildings At Honokohau Industrial Park In Kailua-Kona

Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. announced the latest expansion of its commercial real estate portfolio with the acquisition of five multi-tenant industrial buildings at the Honokohau Industrial Park in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.  The buildings are located on two lots within the 37-acre industrial park and are centrally located to service both Kailua-Kona and the Kohala Coast.

Honokohau Industrial Park

The $10 million acquisition represents 73,200 square feet of prime industrial space within the 37-acre industrial park. The purchase was largely financed with sales proceeds from non-income producing properties. The in-going cap rate is 8.3%. Currently 94 percent of the available space is leased to tenants from the construction, tourism, food distribution, automotive repair and transportation industries, generating an annualized base rent of $12.13 per square foot.

“This is a quality property that expands our industrial portfolio in Hawaii, consistent with our intent to increase investments in this attractive asset class. We look forward to working with the tenants and ensuring they have the best possible customer experience,” said Lance Parker, president of A&B Properties.

ABOUT ALEXANDER & BALDWIN

Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. is a Hawaii-based public company, with interests in commercial real estate, land operations, materials and infrastructure construction. With ownership of approximately 87,000 acres in Hawaii, A&B is the state’s fourth largest private landowner, and one of the state’s most active real estate investors. The Company manages a portfolio comprising 4.7 million square feet of leasable space in Hawaii and on the U.S. Mainland and is the largest owner of grocery/drug-anchored retail centers in the state. A&B is also Hawaii’s largest materials company and paving contractor. Additional information about A&B may be found at www.alexanderbaldwin.com.

Councilmember Ruggles to Introduce Proposed Property Tax Amendment

On Monday, June 5, at a Special Council Meeting, Councilmember Jen Ruggles will discuss her amendment to Mayor Kim’s proposal to raise property taxes through proposing an entirely new tax rate structure. She says her scenario will cause almost 88% of property owners to pay less taxes in the long run through exemptions compared to the Mayor’s plan, and balances the budget while not increasing the minimum tax, agricultural, and homeowner rates. Ruggles plan would increase tax rates and provides automatic exemptions for the residential, apartment, commercial, and industrial classes.

Click to enlarge

Ruggles’ plan would amend Mayor Kim’s Resolution 213-17 which raised taxes in every class except affordable rental. He’s also proposed to double the minimum tax from $100 to $200 which passed it’s first reading on May 18th. Ruggles was the only dissenting vote. “Doubling the minimum tax is a hundred percent increase on the poorest of poor, including disabled veterans and non-profits,” said Ruggles, “I want to ensure the county is not putting the burden on those who can least afford it.” An increase in the minimum tax would cause the tax payment for up to 50,188 properties to increase.

Ruggles said she’s introduced this amendment because she is concerned that across the board increases on all property owners are regressive, and her plan protects low to middle range homes and businesses. For example, 1,548 businesses in the commercial class with property valuations under $456,000 would pay average of $215 less, when compared to the Mayor’s plan, according to Ruggles’ calculations.

Ruggles’ plan would increase residential to $11.7 per thousand with a $30,000 exemption, commercial and industrial to 11.7 with a 40,000 exemption, apartment to 12.5 with a $20,000 exemption, and increase hotel, resort, and conservation to 12.5. The exemptions, if passed would become effective next year. “This means that for the first year every business assessed under $465,000 would pay a little more, and then see a net savings after the second year when the exemptions take place,” explained Ruggles, “for example, Suisan, a local business assessed at $239,000, would pay $239 more than the rates proposed by the mayor for the first year, then pay $229 less every year thereafter.”

Click to enlarge

For the apartment class, an apartment valued at $119,000 rented at Waiakea Villas would pay $136 less than the Mayor’s rate under Ruggles’ plan. However, a property in a Waikoloa Resort complex, valued at $421,200 would pay $70 more per year.

“The exemption system shields low and mid-range property values while allowing those who can afford it to pay a little more,” said Ruggles.

Ruggles amendments will be heard on Monday, June 5th, and testimony will be taken at 9am.

Hawaii Census Bureau Release: Hawaii Housing Facts

The U.S. Census Bureau released its housing unit estimates on May 25, 2017. Below are some statistics on housing units within the State of Hawaii.

Housing Units in Hawaii in 2016

On July 1, 2016, Hawaii had 537,114 housing units. This was an increase of 17,606 or a 3.4% increase from April 1, 2010 and 0.5% increase per year. Hawaii ranked 42nd in number of housing units among all states within the nation and D.C.  Among our four counties, the City and County of Honolulu had the largest share of housing units with about 65%, followed by Hawaii County with 16%, Maui County with about 13% and lastly Kauai County with about 6%.

The housing unit growth between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2016 was higher in Hawaii County than in the other three counties. Housing units in Hawaii County increased by 5.4% while the other three counties had 2.5%-3.1% increases in their housing units for the period.

Comparative population statistics Population in Hawaii in 2016

HOUSING UNITS, BY COUNTY: 2000 TO 2016

Click to enlarge

HOUSING UNIT ESTIMATES AND PERCENTAGE CHANGE FOR THE STATE OF HAWAII: 2000 TO 2016

Click to view report

Japan Airlines Announces New Routes to Kona – Hawaii Governor to Hold News Conference Tomorrow

Japan Airlines (JAL) yesterday announced that it will launch new nonstop services between Tokyo (Narita) and Melbourne starting September 1, 2017, and between Tokyo (Narita) and Kona from September 15, 2017.

Tomorrow, Governor Ige will hold a news conference detailing the new routes with Mayor Harry Kim and Japan Airlines Director/Chairman Masaru Onisihi

Melbourne will become the second destination in Australia within JAL’s international network. Additionally, a nonstop service will return between Tokyo (Narita) and Kona, the gateway to Hawaii Island, which is one of the most popular destinations in Hawaii and surrounded by a rich natural environment.

The JAL Group will continue to embrace new challenges to deliver greater customer convenience and comfort, enhance its networks, and improve the quality of products and services.

JAL currently operates six daily flights to Honolulu, including four daily flights from Narita, and one daily flight from Osaka (Kansai) and Nagoya (Chubu), respectively. Starting September 15, 2017, JAL will resume nonstop service to Kona on Hawaii Island after a seven-year absence. The daily service from Narita will operate using the airline’s JAL SKY SUITE configured aircraft.

Hawaii Island, also commonly known as the Big Island, is one of the most popular travel destinations and surrounded by a rich natural environment. With this new Kona service, both customers visiting Hawaii for the first time and those who have visited Honolulu previously, will be able to discover more of Hawaii’s countless charms.

The well-received JAL SKY SUITE 767 aircraft operating the Narita = Kona route is fitted with the airline’s latest interior including fully flat “JAL SKY SUITEⅡ”seats in Business Class.

“JAL SKY SUITEⅡ”seats

In Economy Class, “JAL SKY WIDER” seats offer increased pitch and a slim-style seatback design resulting in approximately 10 cm (max.) more legroom than the previous seat pitch.

“JAL SKY WIDER” seats

The following plans and schedules are subject to government approval.

Note: Arrival time of JL770 and Departure time of JL779 will be 10 minutes earlier from October 1 through October 28, 2017.

Commentary: Councilwoman Ruggles “Call to Action” on Gas Tax Increases

Help to protect Puna and low-middle income families from having to pay more at the pump.

Mayor Kim is proposing a 261% increase to the fuel tax over the next 2 years. Fuel taxes are an especially regressive type of tax and will disproportionately affect Puna residents. We need to explore other options for raising revenue, and need the public to have their voices heard.

Details: Tomorrow evening, May 31st at 5 pm  at the Hilo Council Chambers (25 Aupuni st.) the County Council will consider this increase, and you can testify from any satellite council locations as well, including the Pahoa Neighborhood facility (15-2710 Kauhale Street Pāhoa). The proposal will double fuel taxes from 8.8 cents per gallon to 19 cents beginning July, and then increase it to 23 cents by 2019.

Why I am Opposed to Increasing the Fuel Tax:

1) Fuel tax is regressive:
If the entire population pays the same rate of taxes and there are no exemptions or tax credits, then residents of  a lower socio-economic status are, by default, paying a higher percentage of their income towards that tax than individuals earning a higher income. Thus, a family of 4 living on $30k annually will be more affected by a raise than a family of 4 living on $200k annually.

2) Puna Residents will be disproportionately burdened:
We will be disproportionately burdened because we will be paying a greater percentage in fuel taxes while simultaneously receiving the least benefit from the tax:

A. Puna has the highest  percentage of people living below the federal poverty level in the state of Hawaii. Thus, more people in Puna will be negatively affected by this regressive tax than people in other districts.

B. The majority of Puna residents must drive long distances for food, work, college, and doctor’s appointments, etc. On average, Puna residents are more than likely driving further on a daily basis then residents of other districts which means that they will pay a higher percentage of the County’s total fuel tax revenue than residents of other districts.

C. As of now, fuel tax revenue can only be spent on County owned roads. The majority of Puna’s roads are considered private which means that fuel tax revenue cannot be used to improve or maintain the substandard subdivision roads of Puna.

D. Because the distribution of fuel taxes is based on the miles of county road in each district and most of Puna’s roads are private, there is a correlation that while we may drive much more than Hilo residents, we have less county roads, and are therefore receiving less benefit than residents in Hilo are. Based on the distribution formula we are likely paying a higher percentage than are receiving in benefit.

Councilwoman Jen Ruggles

Hawaii Farms Count! 2017 Census of Agriculture

The Census of Agriculture is coming in December and to prepare, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will visit Hawaii farm and ranch properties now through the end of June. The agency will conduct an area survey across Hawaii to determine crop acreage and livestock inventories for 2017 to make sure every farm is counted for the Census of Agriculture later this year.

“When farmers and ranchers participate in the area survey in May and June, they provide essential information that helps us determine the prospective production and supply of major commodities in Hawaii for the 2017 crop year,” said Kathy King, Hawaii State Statistician. This year, the area survey is especially important because it will ensure there is coverage of every farm for the Census of Agriculture. King added, “With the information from the area survey in Hawaii, we will have the most accurate and reliable data in the Census of Agriculture, covering key demographics, crop diversity, and value of production.”

For the area survey, agency representatives visit randomly selected tracts of land and interview the operators of any farm or ranch on that land. Growers provide information on their crop acreage, farm demographics, livestock inventory, and value of sales. King emphasized, “Everyone involved in Hawaii agriculture looks forward to the Census of Agriculture data, which provides the complete picture of farming and ranching in our state. With everyone participating in this area survey, we will have top quality data for the Census of Agriculture.”

Farmers can be assured all individual information provided to NASS is confidential and only used for statistical purposes as required by law.  For more information on NASS surveys and reports in Hawaii, please give Kathy King a call at the NASS Pacific Region-Hawaii Field Office at 1-808-522-8080. All reports are available on the NASS website:  http://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications.

Rep. Gabbard and Senator Sanders Introduce “Raise the Wage Act”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D, HI-02) stood with Senator Bernie Sanders and Democratic leaders from the House and Senate to introduce the Raise the Wage Act today.

The legislation would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024 and index the minimum wage to the median wage growth thereafter. It has been 10 years since legislation was enacted increasing the federal minimum wage. When adjusted for inflation, about 40 percent of today’s workers earn less than the minimum wage in 1968. The Raise the Wage Act would give more than 41 million low-wage workers a raise, increasing the wages of almost 30 percent of the U.S. workforce.

“In my home state of Hawaiʻi, and across the country, far too many people are working one or two full-time minimum wage jobs, living in poverty, and barely scraping by. The federal minimum wage has fallen far behind inflation and has actually lost value over time, meaning working families are making less while paying more just to make ends meet. The federal minimum wage has stagnated for the last 10 years—it is long overdue for Congress to do the right thing for hard-working Americans and raise the minimum wage,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has supported legislation to raise the federal minimum wage throughout her time in Congress, and is an original cosponsor of the legislation introduced today to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. She has also cosponsored legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R.1869) to address wage discrimination across the United States.

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Will Implement Third Phase of Fee Increase June 1

On June 1, entrance fees at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park will increase, the last phase of a three-year incremental plan to meet national standards for parks with similar visitor amenities.

The 2017 per-vehicle fee will change from $20 to $25 and the pass is valid for seven days. The per-person fee (the rate bicyclists and pedestrians pay) will increase from $10 to $12, and the motorcycle fee will increase to $20.

The popular annual Tri-Park Pass will increase from $25 to $30 in 2017. The annual Tri-Park Pass is available to all visitors and allows unlimited entry for one year to three national parks: Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, and Haleakalā National Park.

Entrance fees at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park support ongoing trail maintenance, road and parking lot striping, cabin repairs, hike guides, restrooms, picnic tables, and much more.

Recreational entrance fees are not charged to holders of the Tri-Park Pass, America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Lands (“Interagency”) Pass, Senior, Access, Every Kidin a Park, Volunteer, or Military passes. These passes may be obtained at the park, or online. In addition, visitors less than 16 years old are not charged entrance fees.

Fee increases for the park’s backcountry and front-country campsites were implemented in October 2016. There is a $10 per night charge for the front-country campground at Kulanaokuaiki, up to seven consecutive nights; and a $10 per permit charge for backcountry campgrounds like Nāpau, ‘Āpua Point, and Halapē, up to three consecutive nights. Availability is on a first-come basis, not a reservation system. The camping permit fees are similar to other public camping fees statewide.

In addition, entrance fees will increase for commercial tour companies on June 1. Road-based tour vans carrying one to six passengers pay a $25 base fee and starting June 1, will pay a $12 per-person rate to enter the park. The commercial tour per-person rate will remain at $12 through 2021. The base fee will not change. Non-road-based tour companies, i.e. hiking tour companies that are on trails more than touring the park by vehicle, don’t pay a base rate but their per-person entrance fees will increase under the schedule.

The current National Park Service (NPS) fee program began in 1997 and allows parks to retain 80 percent of monies collected. Projects funded by entrance fees enhance the visitor experience and safety at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, and include ongoing trail maintenance, road and parking lot striping, cabin repairs, hike guides, restrooms, picnic tables, and more. The transformation of the 1932 Administration Building (‘Ōhi‘a Wing) into a cultural museum that visitors will soon enjoy is also a fee-funded project. Entrance fees also protect the Hawaiian ecosystem by funding fencing projects that prevent non-native ungulates like pigs and goats from devouring rare native plants.

An NPS report shows that 1,887,580 visitors to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park in 2016 spent $159,195,500 in communities near the park. That spending supported 1,917 jobs on island, and had a cumulative benefit to the local community of $199,923,400.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Trump’s Massive Budget Cuts Threaten Hawaii, American People

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today warned that the Trump Administration’s 2018 Budget Blueprint puts the health and safety of the most vulnerable in our country at risk with massive cuts to government programs that spur economic growth and provide critical services. The budget slashes $1.4 trillion from programs families in Hawaiʻi and across the country depend on, including:

  • $610 billion in cuts to Medicaid that serves over 348,000 people in Hawaiʻi
  • $191 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that serves over 170,000 people in Hawaiʻi
  • $72 billion in cuts to the Social Security’s disability program, which serves over 19,000 people in Hawaiʻi
  • $143 billion from federal student loans, including the elimination of federally subsidized loans and loan forgiveness programs that serve Hawaiʻi nurses, police officers, and teachers
  • $40.4 billion in cuts to the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which assist one in eight Hawaiʻi keiki living in poverty

Click to read

In a speech on the House floor today, the congresswoman said, “The president’s budget proposal put forward today will be damaging to the people in our communities and the places that we call home. It cuts Medicaid by over $600 billion, cuts the food stamp program by over 25%, affecting the most needy within our communities. It slashes infrastructure programs, eliminates TIGER grants, cuts student loan and financial aid programs, and includes catastrophic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. In my home state of Hawai’i, this budget zeros out federal funding for the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant, the Native Hawaiian Loan Guarantee Program, and cuts Native Hawaiian Education programs by $33 million dollars, crippling the progress that’s been made for over 30 years to strengthen Native Hawaiian early education, literacy, gifted and talented education programs, higher education, vocational programs and more. I strongly oppose this budget, and look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to pass a budget that actually serves the people and our planet.”

REPORT: Native Hawaiian-Owned Firms in Hawaii’s Tourism Sector

The Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT) has released the report “Native Hawaiian-Owned Firms in Hawaii’s Tourism Sector”. To obtain the report, click here.

The executive summary begins with “According to the U.S. Census Bureau data, Native Hawaiians owned a total of 13,147 firms in Hawaii in 2012. 3,972 or 30.2 percent of these firms were in the tourism sector and accounted for 10.1 percent of the total tourism sector firms in the state.”

Click to read report

An updated DBEDT ACS interactive map is also now available. It may be found on the Office of Planning’s State GIS Program’s website here.

This map product is a joint project between our Research and Economic Analysis Division and the Hawaii Statewide GIS Program. In this map, area profiles for all Hawaii census tracts, State Senate Districts and State House Districts were updated with the latest 2011-2015 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year data . State of Hawaii as well as county figures are also provided. For downloadable files containing this profile data, click here.

An Analysis of Consumer Debt: How Does Hawaii Compare with the Nation?

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) released a report today, “An Analysis of Consumer Debt: How does Hawaii Compare with the Nation?” The report examined various consumer debt categories.

The report highlights why our per capita debt is high, which is due to high housing prices in Hawaii, with 77 percent of our debt from mortgage debt.

Hawaii’s home ownership increased 10 percentage points from 46.9 percent in 1970 to 56.9 percent in 2015 while the U.S. home ownership increased less than one percentage point from 62.9 percent to 63.8 percent during the same time period.

Chief State Economist Dr. Eugene Tian noted that the high mortgage debt may also have negative impacts, including less consumers spending on other goods and services by home owners, increasing rental payment for renters, and the leakage of mortgage payment to out-of-state financial institutions.

Following are some of the highlights of the report:

  • Hawaii’s total consumer debt per capita increased from $51,810 in 2005 to $67,010 in 2015, ranking it second highest in the nation.
  • For mortgage debt per capita, Hawaii has been steadily increasing in the state rankings, from the sixth highest state in 2005 to the highest state in 2015.
  • Hawaii ranks low among states for auto loans per capita, while defaults for those with auto loans are close to U.S. average.
  • Hawaii residents have relatively high credit card debt. Hawaii ranked fourth in the nation in 2010 and 2015 for credit card debt per capita.
  • Hawaii ranks the lowest in the nation for per capita student debt.
  • For the other debt category (home equity lines of credit, consumer cards, and consumer-financed debt), Hawaii leads the nation for the average amount per capita at $5,300. This partially reflects Hawaii’s high residential real estate values and the home equity loan balances supported by these high values.

The report is available at: http://files.hawaii.gov/dbedt/economic/reports/consumer_debt_final.pdf

Hawaii State Budget Includes Over $331 Million for Capital Improvement Projects on the Big Island

Under the state budget passed by the Legislature, Big Island representatives secured more than $331 million in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding for the biennium of fiscal years 2018 and 2019 for various projects across Hawaii County. Hawaii lawmakers were also able to secure $5.4 million in Grants-In-Aid CIP for Big Island nonprofit organizations.

Notable CIP funding highlights for Hawaii County include:

  • $89 million for extending the Daniel K. Inouye Highway
  • $54.7 million for Hawaii Belt Road improvements
  • $40 million for Keaau-Pahoa Road improvements
  • $20.8 million for Mamalahoa Highway road and bridge improvements
  • $19.3 million for Hilo International Airport improvements
  • $14.8 million for Kona International Airport improvements
  • $13.2 million for Hawaii Community Correctional Center for medium security housing
  • $13 million to replace 4 mile Creek Bridge $8 million for Kawaihae Road improvements
  • $4.5 million for Hilo Counseling Center and Keawe Health Center Improvements
  • $4.4 million for Hilo High School track & field, auditorium and locker room improvements
  • $3.6 million for Kealakehe High School track, performing arts center and gym design and improvements
  • $3 million for air conditioning improvements at the University of Hawaii at Hilo
  • $3 million for Akoni Pule Highway realignment and widening
  • $2.5 million for Waiakeawaena Elementary School cafeteria and administrative buildings
  • $2.5 million for Keaukaha Military Reservation maintenance shop projects
  • $2 million for Hilo Medical Center Telehealth unit
  • $2 million for Hawaiian Home Lands lot development in Kaumana and Kau
  • $1.5 million for Honokaa High School for covered walkways
  • $1.2 million for Naalehu Elementary School covered walkways
  • $1.1 million for paving and drainage improvements at Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor
  • $1 million for Upolu Airport improvements
  • $1 million for Kohala High School gymnasium
  • $850,000 for West Hawaii Veteran’s Center plan, design and construction of a veteran’s center
  • $700,000 for Hawaii Community College trades and apprenticeship program and physics lab classroom
  • $700,000 for Kohala Middle School dual use play court/assembly area

In addition to the executive budget CIP funding, appropriations for Grants-In-Aid were also awarded to organizations for the benefit of the Hawaii Island community:

  • $925,000 for West Hawaii Community Health Center to build a health care facility
  • $800,000 for Waimea Nui Community Development Corp. to build a community agricultural park
  • $800,000 for Hamakua Health Center to build a new health center
  • $698,000 for Island of Hawaii YMCA repairs to the Hilo YMCA
  • $605,000 for Pacific Well Drilling and Pump Services for equipment
  • $500,000 for Kailapa Community Association to build a resource center
  • $500,000 for Laiopua 2020 to build a community center
  • $200,000 for Hawaii Island Community Development Corp. to build a new adult day care center
  • $130,000 for Friends of Palace Theater air conditioning system
  • $100,000 for Aloha Performing Arts Company for Aloha Theatre renovations
  • $100,000 for Habitat for Humanity West Hawaii to build affordable housing for low-income families in West Hawaii
  • $91,000 for Arts & Sciences Center fire alarm system

EBT Cards to Experience Downtime Monday, May 15

Individuals and families using their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards may experience downtime from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. on Monday, May 15, 2017. Consumers are asked to avoid making transactions during these morning hours. Consumers may resume regular use of their cards after 6 a.m. on Monday.

From May 12, 2017 through May 15, 2017, the Hawai‘i Department of Human Services (DHS) will be converting its Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system from the current vendor, JPMorgan Electronic Financial Services, to a new EBT vendor, Fidelity Information Services Government Solutions.

EBT cardholders experiencing issues beyond 6 a.m. on May 15, 2017 may call the same helpline as usual at 1-888-328-4292. Limited helpline service will be available to EBT cardholders during the downtime period.

Hawaii AG Joins in Call for Expansion of Medicaid Fraud Authority

Attorney General Doug Chin yesterday joined the attorneys general of 37 states and the District of Columbia urging the federal government to change its policy so state attorneys general can use federal funds to investigate and prosecute a wider range of Medicaid abuse and neglect cases.

The letter was sent to Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services, by the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).

Click to read letter

Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides free or low-cost medical benefits to millions of Americans. More than 6.4 million people enrolled in the Medicaid program are age 65 or older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 10 persons age 65 and older who live at home will become a victim of abuse.

Attorney General Chin said, “The Hawaii Medicaid Fraud Control Unit receives thousands of complaints relating to fraud and abuse and neglect every year. We will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute these cases. We hope that the federal government will hear our concerns and support our efforts to protect Hawaii’s most vulnerable residents.”

Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs) investigate and prosecute state Medicaid provider fraud and resident abuse and neglect complaints in board and care facilities. In Hawaii, MFCU operates in the Department of the Attorney General.

According to the bipartisan letter signed by Attorney General Chin:

“[T]he current strict federal limitations on states’ ability to use MFCU assets to investigate abuse and neglect are outdated, arbitrarily restrict our ability to protect Medicaid beneficiaries from abuse and neglect as Congress intended, and should be replaced or eliminated.

We respectfully request you take swift action to eliminate federal regulations that needlessly narrow our use of these valuable assets. Instead, we request to be freed to use federal MFCU funds to detect, investigate and prosecute abuse and neglect committed against Medicaid beneficiaries or in connection with Medicaid-funded services to the fullest extent permitted by federal statute.”

The letter from NAAG offered two specific recommendations:

  • Allow MFCU federals funds to be used to investigate and prosecute abuse and neglect of Medicaid beneficiaries in non-institutional settings (i.e. home health care).
  • Allow use of MFCU federal funds to freely screen or review any and all complaints or reports of whatever type, in whatever setting.

A copy of the letter is attached.