Saiki Seeks to Tackle Economic Impacts of Coronavirus

February 29, 2020, 1:00 PM HST · Updated February 29, 9:13 AM
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This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. PC: Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM. Content provider: CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS

House Speaker Scott K. Saiki announced that he will introduce a resolution to form a Special Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness, which will be asked to identify the potential economic and financial impact to Hawaiʻi from the coronavirus, develop short-term and long-term mitigation plans, and monitor conditions and outcomes.

“Hawaiʻi’s Department of Health, Department of Defense and other agencies have been focused on health preparedness,” Saiki said in a press release.

“But just as importantly, we also need economic and financial preparedness.”

Saiki said with the significant drop in the stock market and with the state’s economic dependence on tourism and imported goods, lawmakers must quickly prepare for the growing financial impact on Hawaiʻi.

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“The purpose of this committee is to prepare for any impacts that the state may experience. This committee will involve not just the government sector but the private sector, labor unions, and industries that would be impacted,” Saiki added.

Saiki told his colleagues in the House that the World Health Organization has raised its global spread warning of coronavirus or COVID-19 from “high” to “very high.” According to Saiki, the State Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism reported a 7.3 percent drop in international passengers to Hawaiʻi in February and an estimated loss of $23 million in visitor expenditures due to the temporary suspension of flights to and from South Korea.

Saiki said that during the 2008-2009 recession the state was forced to make budget cuts of $2.1 billion over a three-year period.

“The state had to make some drastic decisions such as implementing the Furlough Friday program and reducing the public school week to four days. We need to be prepared for what may happen with coronavirus and how that may affect our state. If we are prepared, we should be in a position to mitigate any impacts that the state may experience from the virus,” Saiki said.

The novel coronavirus has killed more than 2,800 people worldwide, the vast majority in mainland China. There have been more than 83,000 global cases, with infections in every continent except Antarctica.

No cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Hawaiʻi at this time.

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