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Honolulu Council eyes $27M for city worker hazard pay

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The Honolulu City Council plans to earmark $27 million in federal funds to repay eligible, unionized city employees employed through the COVID-19 pandemic.

In latest years Hawaii’s authorities worker unions, together with the Hawaii Government Employees Association, United Public Workers and the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, have pressured the state and its 4 main counties to pay again their respective memberships for pandemic-

period work.

Under Resolution 119 the Council, through a proper request by Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s administration, seeks to reprogram remaining American Rescue Plan Act State and Local Fiscal Recovery funds towards that unpaid hazard pay.

The city’s ARPA cash contains a minimum of two parts — or tranches — of remaining funds, amounting to

$80 million, in keeping with

city Managing Director Mike Formby.

In an April 18 letter to Council Chair Tommy Waters, Formby stated the “administration respectfully requested the Council reallocate $7 million in Tranche 2 funds to the city’s Rental and Utility Relief Program

to assist eligible households with rent payments, rent arrears, utility payments, and utility arrears.”

“Via this letter, I am requesting the Council consider reallocating $20 million to further reduce the other post employment benefits (OPEB) provisional and increase the hazard pay provisional, both of which require a Council amendment to Bill 12 (2024) … relating to the executive operating budget and program for the fiscal year July 1, 2024 to June 30, 2025,” Formby wrote.

“U.S. Treasury guidelines allow the city to claim revenue replacement for revenue lost during COVID-19 and the total loss incurred by the City, as calculated by the Department of Budget and Finance in accordance with U.S. Treasury guidelines, vastly exceeds the number contemplated by this proposed reallocation of $20 million, in addition to the $80,000,000 previously reallocated to OPEB,” Formby wrote.

During the Council’s Committee on Planning and the Economy on Thursday, Vice Chair Esther Kia’aina provided her committee draft of Resolution 119, which plans to attract $7 million from the city’s hire reduction program and $20 million from funding devoted towards inexpensive housing initiatives.

She stated the $27 million will probably be “used as advance payment to the city’s other post-employment benefit

activity to, among other things, support hazard

pay” for eligible important employees.

“While the rental and

utility relief program was a hugely successful program aimed at providing financial support to households at risk of becoming homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Council last supported reprogramming ARPA moneys for this purpose, it was anticipated to be the final one,” Kia’aina stated. “With the program wrapping up as the COVID-

19 crisis ended, one of the city’s key priorities right now is ensuring we’re able to find sufficient funds to compensate our staff for hazard pay.”

At the assembly, Formby stated the city was in assist of Resolution 119 and accompanying drafts.

Later, Council member Calvin Say known as for the merchandise to be carried out in a nonpublic government session for particulars over negotiations with city labor unions.

Formby agreed, noting, “Because we’re still in arbitration with SHOPO and UPW.”

Following that government session, Kia’aina’s draft of Resolution 119 was authorised for full Council

evaluation.

In April, arbitration proceedings on “temporary hazard pay” — compensation to staff who’re briefly uncovered to unusually hazardous working situations — concluded between the City and County of Honolulu and UPW, which represents about 2,300 city staff, in keeping with UPW spokesperson Maleko McDonnell.

“It’s basically the blue-

collar workers for the county,” he instructed the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “These are the guys that make the city run so that everybody can enjoy it.”

He famous that through the pandemic emergency then-Gov. David Ige “suspended” Chapter 89 — a Hawaii regulation that protects collective bargaining rights for state and county staff.

“Our workers are guaranteed hazard pay under their collective bargaining agreements,” McDonnell stated, including the union’s present contract was by no means fulfilled. “That was something that was secured to them before anybody knew that a pandemic would happen.”

Since the pandemic emergency has subsided, he stated, “we’re going back to the employer and saying, ‘OK, now it’s time to recognize the work that they did, to recognize the hazard they faced, to honor the contract that is still in place … and now it’s time to make them whole.'”

UPW seeks a 25% pay differential primarily based on particular person employees’ minimal pay grades, he stated.

“It’s 25% of their pay, and they get that on top of their (base) pay,” he stated. “And the way that works is it would get added into their compensation for the work performed while they were at risk.”

UPW awaits a choice from a third-party arbitrator to resolve the problem towards

a doable settlement. “Barring unforeseen circumstances, we expect a decision to happen very soon, like sometime this summer,” he added.

After the assembly, Scott Humber, the mayor’s communications director, clarified that “the city and county is not using ARPA funds for hazard pay.”

“The funds are being reallocated from other ARPA projects to prepayment of (other post-employment benefit) expenses under the U.S. Treasury’s revenue reduction provision, not hazard pay,” Humber instructed the Star-Advertiser through e mail.

He added that “the city does not currently have an appropriation for hazard pay and has not negotiated the terms of a payout as of this date.”

Humber stated the city will decide hazard cost quantities per worker “by arbitration and/or negotiation, neither of which have been completed as of this date.”

Moreover, he famous the city is required to file common compliance and information experiences with the U.S. Treasury.

“There has been no federal audit to date,” Humber stated, however added that “the City Auditor is currently

auditing the city’s ARPA

program.”

According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, ARPA funds should be obligated for new, eligible makes use of by Dec. 31. Jurisdictions have till

Dec. 31, 2026, to totally use these funds — cash

meant for prices incurred

after March 3, 2021.

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