Insights & Stories

COVID-19 Assistance Resources for Hawaii Residents

Reading time: 4 Minutes

March 31st, 2020

[This guide has been updated with new information—here.]


As COVID-19 continues to spread through our community, the economic impacts of the pandemic are hitting people hard. Thousands of Hawaii residents have lost income and are facing financial uncertainty. But help is available. A broad coalition of private, public, nonprofit and government organizations are stepping up to offer relief—from assistance with food and rent to forbearance or deferrals on mortgages and loans. Here are a few Hawaii programs and services that are ready to help, including Bank of Hawaii's programs to assist mortgage and loan holders in need.

Resources for Food, Housing and Utilities

Aloha United Way: If you need assistance and aren't sure where to start, call 211 for referrals to a broad range of programs, from assistance with basic needs like food and shelter, to child care and legal services.

Hawaii Food Bank: Food assistance is available at pantries and feeding programs throughout Oahu and Kauai. Check the food bank's COVID-19 response page for a list of distribution sites that are currently open.

The Food Basket: You can call 808-933-6030 for help obtaining food on Hawaii Island, or visit the program's website for an update on coronavirus response and information about which pantries may be open.

Maui Food Bank: This organization distributes food to pantries and feeding programs on Maui, Molokai and Lanai. If you're in need of food, call 211 for a referral to a participating program.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): If your income falls below a certain level, you can qualify for food assistance from the federal government. In Hawaii, SNAP is administered by the Department of Human Services; visit the program's website for information on how to apply.

Hawaiian Electric Co.: HECO announced on March 17, 2020, that it would suspend disconnections for at least 30 days as relief for customers who are financially challenged by the pandemic. Customers who are having a hard time paying their bills are asked to contact customer service to discuss their options. Visit HECO's COVID-19 response page for more information and tips on saving energy while working from home.

Hawaii Gas: The company announced that it will not be interrupting gas service through at least April 30, 2020, to provide relief to customers who are unable to pay their gas bill. Customers are asked to call the utility to discuss payment options.

Spectrum: Internet access has become a critical resource for getting information on the outbreak, as well as for people working from home and students doing online learning. Spectrum has said, beginning Monday, March 16, 2020, it will not terminate service, and will not charge late fees for at least 60 days from that date, to assist customers who are struggling financially.

Financial Assistance Resources

Unemployment Insurance: If you've lost your job because of shutdowns, you can apply for unemployment insurance through the State of Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. Officials have stated that response times may be delayed due to the high volume of claims. Check out this fact sheet, which answers frequently asked questions about unemployment insurance during the outbreak.

The U.S. Small Business Association Economic Injury Disaster Advance Loan:
If you’re a small business owner currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue because of COVID-19, you may be eligible to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000. According to the SBA, funds will be made available within three days of a successful application, and will not have to be repaid. Find more information here.

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