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Hawaii business owners hold virtual rally to call for government action

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    Honolulu, HI (KITV ) — As state and county leaders scale back reopening plans due to rising coronavirus cases, business owners gathered online to support each other and call for action.

Across Hawaii, there are countless stories of hardship and growing frustration with the government’s handling of the pandemic.

“We need to recognize ineffective leadership that is disconnected to the everyday struggles of common people and as small business owners, we cannot continue to go down this another shutdown or diminished business,” said Thomas Ray, Partner of Square Barrels and Heiho House.

Bar owners like Ray say they’re being unfairly targeted, due to the actions of what he calls a few negligent people that prompted Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell to close all bars for three weeks.

Ray was among more than 100 people who took part in the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii’s virtual SOS Biz Rally on Zoom this morning. The Chamber said an additional 200 people viewed the event live on Facebook.

The owner of a 50-year-old institution in Hilo spoke about the uncertainty.

“What we’re gonna do now I think is is a long waiting game. I don’t have any ideas of how we’ll hang on because I don’t know how long we have to hang on,” said Debbie Ching-Maiava, owner and manager of Ken’s House of Pancakes and Ponds Restaurant.

Several speakers called for a clear government plan with defined triggers so businesses can develop a survival strategy. State senator Glenn Wakai called the government’s handling of economic recovery “haphazard.”

“There should be clear metrics, based on number of infections, hospital availability, ventilators I mean there’s an entire matrix that we can come up with to say, based on these benchmarks, this is what’s going to happen we’re going to slowly read open or things you’re getting bad, we’re going to slowly pull back,” Senator Wakai said.

Business leaders from neighbor islands also weighed in on challenges, and suggested other solutions including rent relief for business owners and grants to help them pivot their operations until tourists return.

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