With tens of thousands of Oahu residents unemployed, the city is launching a new emergency relief program to provide up to $1,000 a month to families in need.

The funds can go toward housing payments, utilities or child care.

“We all know someone who has been impacted. They’re our neighbors,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said, in a news conference. “We are putting people first here.”

The program will be funded initially with $25 million from the federal stimulus package known as the CARES Act, and administered by Hawaii nonprofits. Details on how to apply for the money are set to be released soon.

City officials said the funds are meant for those who bring in 100% or less of area median income and can demonstrate how the pandemic has impacted them financially. Recipients can get up to six months of aid.

Nearly 135,000 workers on Oahu have been laid off amid the pandemic and countless more have seen their wages slashed or hours reduced.

In the most expensive state in the nation, where many live paycheck-to-paycheck, the unprecedented unemployment rate has triggered miles-long lines at food distribution sites day after day.

Nonprofits have also been overwhelmed with requests for help.

Norm Baker, of Aloha United Way, said that the nonprofit’s 211 line is getting flooded by calls from residents looking for financial help. “The intent of this program is spot on,” Baker said, adding that help with the basics is “exactly what the community is demanding right now.”

HNN Staff/ Hawaii News Now