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Hawaii lawmakers reconvene to appropriate virus relief funds

June 23, 2020 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii lawmakers on Monday reconvened their 2020 legislative session to flesh out details for how they plan to spend more than $600 million in federal coronavirus relief funds.

Lawmakers also expect to tackle police reform measures, including a bill that would amend state open records laws to allow the public to learn information about police officer suspensions.

The Democratic Party-controlled House and Senate suspended the regular annual session in March to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. They returned last month briefly to work on the budget after the U.S. Congress appropriated relief money to the states and the pandemic triggered a sharp decline in tax revenue.

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House and Senate leaders expect to put $230 million of the relief money toward $100 monthly payments to those receiving unemployment insurance benefits. The payments will start Aug. 1 and last through December.

The payments are designed to partially replace a $600 monthly payment the federal government is providing to those receiving state unemployment benefits. This “plus-up” payment is due to expire at the end of July. Lawmakers estimate about 117,000 people will receive the $100 payment.

The House and Senate leaders also plan to spend $100 million to provide housing assistance for up to five months to 34,000 people. Those eligible would receive a $500 monthly subsidy or 50% of their rent, which ever is less, for up to five months starting in August.

Lawmakers last month put $635 million of the $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds into the state’s rainy day fund when they returned last month. The expect to appropriate that $635 million during the current session, which is scheduled to end on July 10.