As of April 30, 2020, more than $1.8 billion in grant funding from the CARES Act and other coronavirus response bills is earmarked for Hawaiʻi. Most of the funds are awarded to the state, but others go to the counties, nonprofit organizations, and individual healthcare providers. Figure 1 shows the distribution of funds for their intended purpose.

Coronavirus Relief

The CARES Act provides a total of $1.25 billion divided between the state ($863 million) and the City & County of Honolulu ($387 million) for Coronavirus relief. Funds are intended to be used for public and private expenditures that address health, social, and economic needs that have or will arise from COVID-19. Given the inadequate amount of funding earmarked specifically for human services, food, agriculture, and housing needs, a lot of this money should be deployed to meet those critical needs.


The CARES Act also provides for shovel-ready transportation infrastructure projects, and Hawaiʻi will receive $241 million to put people to work fixing up roads and airports.


As is appropriate to address a pandemic, $160 million will be used for testing, treating, and tracking COVID-19. These allocations and grants will be distributed to the state Department of Health, healthcare providers including community health centers and hospitals, and to support telehealth infrastructure.


Hawaiʻi will receive $102 million to be distributed to Headstart, K-12, and institutions of higher learning (including trade and skills training, not just colleges). More than $15.5 million is intended to provide emergency financial assistance to higher ed students.

Human Services and Housing

Considering the economic devastation many people are facing, it’s surprising that only $43 million is available for human services and housing needs. $21 million will go to housing and homeless programs and $17 million for the childcare development block grant. Only $531,000 is earmarked for family violence, child welfare, and protecting vulnerable seniors.

Unemployment, Food, Other

Finally, $9.4 million will go to the Unemployment Division to bolster administrative processes. An additional $8.5 million will go to emergency and specialized food programs (these are aimed at food banks, congregate meal programs, and WIC nutrition). This is an inadequate amount for our food needs, but it should be noted that more households will be getting food assistance directly from the federal government through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Rounding out the funding is supplemental support for administering the unemployment system, ensuring that our elections systems are ready, and a smattering of grants for arts, humanities and museums.

The state Office for Federal Awards Management (OFAM) is tracking funds available and allocated to state departments. See their reports on COVID-19 Awards Appropriated for Hawaiʻi, and COVID-10 Awards Received by Hawaiʻi State Departments.