As we nestle into 2021 after a tumultuous 2020, we see a steady pace of change with the new presidential administration. However, we still face several hurdles to overcome from economic recovery to maintaining the safety of Hawaii’s residents. It has been a year since Hawaiʻi implemented COVID-19 restrictions in order to protect our residents, and it feels like we can start to think more freely about seeing extended family, planning vacations, and having our keiki back in school. Our islands have seen some of the lowest infection rates since the pandemic started, the result of a culmination of factors including social distancing, wearing of masks, increasing hygiene practices, and now the rollout of vaccines. As history taught us, we can only overcome disasters (and pandemics) through working together to combat the pathogen. This is our road to a new sense of normalcy.
Currently, our state works towards not only addressing the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 but also how to better prepare for the next emergency or crisis. The recent floods impacting communities across the state, have shown us the importance of investing in the safety and resilience of our residents. Now is the time to think about what each of us can do to make a change towards sustainability, equity, and making investments in public health for the future of our residents. We have seen that well-funded public health systems engaging in multi-sectoral partnerships add immense value to individuals and communities. From robust data surveillance systems to fully functioning infectious disease programs, investing in public health helps to support better outcomes for our future.
The latest federal aid package, American Rescue Plan Act, is expected to bring in at least $6.1 billion for Hawaiʻi, delivering much-needed relief for our residents and businesses. The funding will provide aid to state and local governments to help with budget shortfalls, stimulus checks, rental relief, unemployment benefits, PPP loans for small businesses and nonprofit agencies, funding for schools and child care programs and for testing, contact tracing, vaccine distribution, and increasing our public health workforce in Hawaiʻi. In addition, the Act extends the 15% SNAP increase through September 30, 2021, and includes a number of policies and Medicaid provisions to increase the affordability of health insurance. We appreciate the work of our congressional delegation in securing financial relief for Hawaiʻi.
At the state level, we are halfway through the legislative session and continue to push HIPHI’s policy priorities. One of the bills HIPHI is extremely concerned about repeals the Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund. With Hawaii’s youth e-cigarette rates at an all-time high, it is more important than ever that we don’t roll back prevention efforts and continue providing cessation services to all who are trying to quit smoking or using e-cigarettes. You can read more about the policies HIPHI is working on in our policy update article.
As we head into a new quarter, we would like to share that April 5-11 is National Public Health Week! HIPHI will spend the week conducting various activities so stay tuned for more information via social media and our website. Follow us @hubforhealth on Twitter, Instagram, and @hubforhealthHI on Facebook.
Finally, HIPHI is recruiting for three positions: Chief Financial Officer, Hawaiʻi Oral Health Coalition Manager, and Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaiʻi Coordinator for Maui County. Job applications and announcements can be found on HIPHI’s website: https://www.hiphi.org/about/#jobs/.
As always, we thank you for your continued support and partnership.