Over 200 business owners gathered this week at Vidinha Stadium in Lihue, sharing their struggles, asking for transparency from county officials, and wanting a date when tourism will reopen. Many of those attending are personal friends who are struggling with little to no income and enormous debt. This is on an island with only 2 active COVID cases (as of February 19) and a mayor touting that after-school sports can continue.
Kauai business owners who had been successful before the shutdown have already either succumbed to the financial crisis or are about to. Even giant businesses, such as the Grand Hyatt Kauai, cannot reopen and noted that employee unemployment benefits are about to expire including health insurance.
Those attending the meeting complained about the lack of specific information emanating from the Mayor and County Council on the basis for reopening. It has become impossible for business owners to plan. One person we talked with shared that another three months without income will simply not cut it.
Yesterday the mayor said businesses should take advantage of PPP and other federal government loans and opportunities. But some business owners said they cannot add more debt with the uncertainty of reopening.
Kawakami yesterday promoted the ability to have after-school sports continue but didn’t address a huge percentage of Kauai-based businesses going under that will never return. The mayor continues to receive his salary estimated at $132k. To our knowledge, no councilperson or the mayor has offered not to take their salary during this crisis.
Some Kauai County Council members also attended the meeting. They conveyed their concern while each receives a salary of over $60k annually. Former mayor Bernard Carvalho who serves on the council and was at the event, said, “Businesses are hurting…We did speak with the mayor…They have a plan…It’s coming.” No further details were provided.
Today the Mayor signed his 7th supplementary emergency proclamation for COVID. As Michelle said on Facebook after reading the announcement: “So what did this proclamation do exactly? Sounds like a whole bunch of wordplay that basically amounts to…. nothing. No actual action plan. But gives them the ability to establish… a plan… eventually??? What?? Anyone else confused. Seems like BS.”
This morning, many comments addressed the seriousness of the situation.
George: I am a permanent resident of Kauai. Poipu Shopping center is near my residence. 75-85% of the businesses and restaurants are closed. Several will probably never reopen. The mayor’s policies are killing local business owners. Hawaii needs one set of rules for all islands.
Chris: In contrast, “Maui transpacific arrivals averaged 3,443 per day during the same period which ended February 17, 2021.” 30 people have died on Maui, 1 has died on Kauai. About 10x the number per capita. Prior to re-opening with a single test requirement, there were very few cases on Maui as well. You’re presenting a consistent view of this but failing to fairly present the views of both sides here. The mayor of Kauai is not on some sort of power trip and is not trying to kill the tourist industry. There would be a clear cost (measured in lives) to fully re-opening now, as nearly every legitimate public health official has stated here.
John: I canceled a trip planned for November 2020 and moved to May 2021 – I have canceled that trip. I understand the local push back on opening up Kauai over concerns with Covid. The hard reality is that the majority of the local economy is based on tourism. Without visitors, there is no feasible way that the local population can drive a recovery. I also understand the local desire to limit tourism in the future. But the way it looks at this time, the entire economy is going to fail. I have made many friends during my many visits to Kauai and feel for each of those folks. I look forward to returning to Kauai, but it will not be anytime soon.
Marjorie: The mayor is rogue. He is destroying the heart and soul of Kauai. The small mom-and-pop businesses are quickly closing as they cannot live without tourism. It is sad and disgusting. He again is still penalizing owners by not allowing them to 3-day quarantine in their own homes and then test out after 72 hours. Disgusting. He is doing nothing for the people of Kauai except fabricate fear. He is making tourists not want to go to Kauai, and he is teaching the rich on Kauai to be rude and nasty to the tourists that do end up going.
Archer: I hope Mayor Kawakami gets what he asked for (i.e., budget cuts, furloughs, food insecurity, homelessness). We are canceling our fourth planned trip to Kauai…we are vaccinated, and the world is our oyster…except Kauai. Your elderly are vaccinated and protected; now, what’s your excuse? What are you going to do when the federal funds stop rolling in? How are you going to rebuild your economic infrastructure? Who will pay for those ICU beds when your uninsured outnumber your insured? Nothing Kawakami does make any sense at all.
Archer: Did you read the other news today about increased property taxes on non-resident owners and decrease of taxes on Kauai income and businesses? Kawakami and Ige see a way out of this fiscal mess – they’re raising the property taxes of over 40% of Kauai homeowners. I’m really tired of paying for their poor decisions – it may be time to pull out our stakes and let the Kauai voters be accountable for their many bad choices.