During the past eight years, our state has weathered an unprecedented series of crises: a global pandemic, the Kīlauea eruption, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and fuel contamination at Red Hill. Through it all, Hawaiʻi, its leaders and the community have shown the values that make us strong.
Hawaiʻi island’s very own Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara has spent 38 years handling disaster response for Hawai‘i, but he said COVID-19 has been “the hardest and most challenging of my career.” Hara wears several hats — as adjutant general and commander of the Hawai‘i Army and Air National Guard; director of the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency; and as director of the Hawai‘i Office of Homeland Security. He was appointed incident commander in March 2020 for COVID-19, which meant helping to coordinate multiple elements of prevention, detection, containment, and treatment of the disease, in partnership with the Department of Health and numerous other agencies. Read a Q&A feature with Gen. Hara posted here.
The state Department of Health is urging those eligible to sign up for the recently issued bivalent boosters designed specifically to protect against original COVID-19 and the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants. The Pfizer-BioNTech booster is recommended for people ages 12 and older. The Moderna booster is recommended for adults 18 and up. Bivalent boosters can only be administered if it has been at least two months since a person’s most recent vaccination. We are now moving into a stage where we all need to learn to live with COVID-19. The bivalent booster not only provides protection for the original virus but also the most recent variants that have become prevalent.
In September, I announced that Hawaiʻi taxpayers would be receiving either $300 or $100 tax refunds this fall, depending on their income levels. We know that there are many challenges in these tough economic times. This money will go directly into the pockets of Hawaiʻi’s hard-working people. Checks will either be direct deposited into bank accounts or mailed to individuals through the U.S. postal service. Currently, about 600,000 taxpayers are scheduled to received approximately $294 million in refunds, thanks to the dramatic rebound in the state’s economy. Taxpayers who earn less than $100,000 a year, or couples earning less than $200,000 a year will receive $300 each. Taxpayers who earn $100,000 or more, or couples earning $200,000 or more will receive $100 each.
Pacific Tech 2022, offered by the Hawaiʻi Technology Development Corporation (HTDC) and the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT), returns to Hawaiʻi with a wide array of expert speakers from government entities looking for new solutions, prime contractors that need subcontractors, and new funding vehicles looking to increase the speed of solving government problems with small business solutions. This year’s conference is from October 24 – 26, 2022, at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center in Honolulu. Approximately 150 representatives from federal agencies and across the Pacific region are expected to participate.
In the blur of the past nearly three years, it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come. But I will never forget the sacrifices made by our people and the resiliency of our state. Thank you for always putting the health and safety of our community first.
David Y. Ige