Summer 2020 Legislative Update

SUMMER 2020 LEGISLATIVE UPDATE


CHAIR'S MESSAGE

Aloha HFIA Team,

Usually this time of year we’re getting ready for Convention, looking over the past legislative session, and planning for the summer tourist season. Of course this year the coronavirus pandemic had other plans. HFIA has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Convention, the legislative session was halted just after crossover, and we’re still waiting for a definitive plan to reopen the state to tourists.

Hawaii’s economy has been hit by this pandemic in ways that we could not have anticipated and that will take a long time to recover from. We have already lost local businesses, and others continue to struggle. This is one of the greatest challenges we’ve ever faced. As each week passes the COVID-19 pandemic continues to demonstrate how essential and how amazing our industry is. The companies that make up this association have met each new obstacle and uncertainty of the pandemic and continue to make sure that our state gets what is needed.

HFIA has been a vital source of information to the industry, providing us with updates and resources. The HFIA team has also lived up to the mission of being the voice of Hawaii’s food and beverage industry, communicating with national leaders, participating in the state task force, working for our interests at the county level, and reaching out to assure the public that our supply chain is intact. I know that as this situation improves, our businesses will continue to be there for our community, to help in the ways that we always have and make unexpected contributions.

I’ve been honored to serve as Chair through these times and I’ve humbly accepted the request to maintain continuity and stay on until 2021. I look forward to seeing you all as we digitally meet for now, and whenever we’re able to get together in person again.


Aloha,
Joe Carter VP-GM Coca-Cola Bottling of Hawaii The Odom Corporation


SNAP AND WIC CHANGES

BY HFIA

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental NutritionAssistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) have both seen very large increases in users as the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed. These higher levels of users are anticipated to continue until the State’s economy can begin to recover more fully. The programs have also undergone some important changes in recent months, some related to COVID-19 and some not.

SNAP Waiver Changes Delayed
The plan to drastically limit the availability of waivers for work and training requirements has been delayed. On March 13 a Federal Judge ruled that the new rule eliminating waivers would not mandate in April. The judge specifically mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic in her ruling. It is likely that the change will move forward once the pandemic has ended. SNAP rules limit benefits to three months for able-bodied adults with no dependents. After that, recipients must be working or in training in order to continue to receive benefits.

 Up until recently, states have been granted broad leeway to give waivers for those who don’t meet the requirements. Some reasons for waivers included living in specific areas with limited job prospects or lack of space in eligible training programs. The rule change would have made it much more difficult for states to grant waivers and forced states to adhere to the three-month rule more strictly. The delay means that for now, states can continue to grant waivers for those who do not meet the work requirements but still need to access benefits after three months.

eWIC
Federal requirements mean that the WIC program must change from checks to cards by the end of this year. The rollout has already happened in many stores around the State and will continue this spring and summer. There have been some challenges of getting new systems up and running to accept the cards and manage the change. The Department of Health administers WIC and has distributed material explaining the advantages for both users and vendors.

Some of the advantages for retailers:

  • With eWIC, the transaction results are known immediately.

  • No more check rejections due to:
    – 
    Post-dated/stale dated checks
    – Missing signature
    – Incorrect item purchases
    – Over maximum value (Now known as Not To Exceed (NTE) or Maximum Allowable Reimbursement (MAR)

  • No more delayed payment

Another advantage is the system rather than cashier will determine what items are eligible for WIC purchase. Stores must accept both WIC checks and eWIC cards during the transition. It will take several months to get everyone switched over to cards. DOH states the last checks will be seen in late July or early August. The last day for vendors to submit checks to Hawaii WIC for appeal is September 15, 2020. For any questions please contact Michael Ellis at [email protected].

SNAP Online
SNAP Online is up and running in AL, IA, NE, NY, OR and WA. It has also been approved in AZ, CA, DC, FL, ID, KY, MO, NC, TX, and WV.

Walmart and Amazon were approved as vendors, with some independents participating in certain states. The process for a new retailer to participate is lengthy—retailers must meet several requirements. State  SNAP agencies must apply to FNS in order for any retailers in that State to participate. To encourage States to apply, NGA has created a template letter that retailers can send to their state SNAP agencies. This letter is meant to be personalized by individual retailers and sent to their state SNAP agencies If the State has not yet been approved for SNAP Online participation, as is the case for Hawaii. If you are interested in learning more about the requirements to participate please contact HFIA.


LEGISLATIVE UPDATE 

COUNTY

In addition to the many COVID-19 Related Emergency Proclamations made by County Mayors, the County Councils also took some significant legislative action this spring.

MAUI
Maui Council passed Bill 52 their plastic foodware ban. The ban is similar to Honolulu’s Ordinance 19-30 (Bill 40). It bans single-use plastic foodware from being sold or distributed in Maui County. Foodware includes utensils, straws, cups, plates, bowls, lids, and clamshell-type containers. It also requires that non-plastic single-use foodware be distributed only on request or with the positive response from a customer.

 The ban does not apply to prepackaged food, which means, “food and beverages contained in plastic disposable foodware that has been filled and sealed entirely outside the County or in a manner intended to prevent the food or beverage from having any direct human contact, such as: shelf-stable food and beverages; condiment packets; poi bags; musubi wraps; plastic film; chip bags; cookie and cracker wrappers; bread bags; meal kits; ice bags; beverage-related bottles or cartons; packaging for unprepared food; and packaging for wholesale distribution of prepared food, baked goods, and dairy products.”

There is an exemption for “raw or butchered meats, poultry, seafood, unprepared produce, or eggs.” This does not include poke and sashimi since it’s provided for consumption without further preparation. Food providers can also apply for exemptions in cases where the change would cause financial hardship or there are no suitable alternatives available.

 HFIA testified in opposition to this measure and worked to get the amendment inserted to have musubi wraps and poi bags excluded from the ban. We were also able to get the implementation date pushed to January 1, 2022. As the rulemaking process moves forward we will continue to provide details in the Weekly Updates and help members with navigating the implementation process.

HONOLULU
Honolulu Council is currently moving Bill 41 to provide property tax relief for those impacted by local, state, and federal emergency proclamations related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would allow businesses that have been forced to close to apply for property tax deferment. HFIA has testified in the support of the measure and noted that all Honolulu businesses have been severely negatively impacted, even those that have been allowed to stay open, and that all need relief and support from the County right now.

KAUAI
A Kauai polystyrene foodware ban. had passed first reading but was deferred by the Council until July due to COVID-19. 

STATE

The Hawaii State Legislature Recessed on March 16, shortly after first crossover. So far, a restart date has not been set. Before the recess, HFIA had made good progress on our priority bills. When session does reconvene, the new economic realities will pose new challenges and shift focus for the legislature and HFIA will adjust accordingly.

Helping Working Families
House Bill 2541 makes the state earned income tax credit refundable and permanent. Increases and amends the refundable food/excise tax credit by basing the amount of the credit on a taxpayer’s Hawaii earned income and federal adjusted gross income. Increases minimum wage rate to $11.00 per hour beginning on 1/1/2021, $12.00 per hour beginning on 1/1/2022, $12.50 per hour beginning on 1/1/2023, and $13.00 per hour beginning on 1/1/2024.

HFIA has been commenting on this measure and discussing the need to keep any wage increase to a reasonable level and implement it over a time frame that will minimize negative impacts on businesses and the economy. Our comments also note the benefits of increasing the food excise tax credit.

Leave
Senate Bill 2491 provides family leave insurance benefits and extends the period of family leave to 16 weeks for businesses that employ one or more employees who meet the hourly qualifications.

HFIA has been testifying in opposition to this measure. Our testimony explains that the recently completed Paid Family Leave Program Impact Study Report looked at 16 Weeks of Leave under a TDI model as the absolute maximum, and recommended that any program be implemented over two years but preferably longer. This bill would take effect in 6 months. The Study estimated that any program would create significant costs for the state. It also lacked some information that is critical to understanding exactly how any program will impact the state and the economy.

House Bill 2148: Extends Hawaii family leave to include care for employees’ grandchildren; defines “sibling"; and amends the definition of “child” to include grandchildren.

HFIA has commented noting the problems of expanding the leave program in this way.

Tax Credits
Senate Bill 3090 establishes an agricultural productions tax credit. HFIA has been supporting this measure and emphasizing the need to support all Hawaii food production.

Training, Workforce Development and HTDC
HFIA has been supporting a number of bills that would create workforce readiness programs within the Department of Education. As always, we have also been supporting several bills to fund the Hawaii Technology Development Corporation and its programs, including the Small Business Innovation Research Program, Manufacturing Assistance Program, and Accelerator Program.

Bottles
HFIA opposes SB2720 which would prohibit state agencies from buying beverages in plastic bottles. We also oppose SB2727 which would change the exemption distance between a beverage dealer and redemption center from 2 miles to 1 mile. This would unnecessarily require many more beverage dealers to accept deposit containers in high-density areas.

We have been supporting SB2750 which would remove an outdated and unnecessary law that prevents some local water bottling, as well as SB2721 to implement the auditor’s recommendations for the deposit beverage container program.

Waste and Litter
HFIA has been glad to support a number of common-sense measures to promote better waste management statewide. HB2407 requires DOH to adopt rules to establish a classification system for composting facilities. SB2051 increases the maximum civil penalty for littering from $500 to $1,000. SB2548 appropriates funds to the Department of Land and Natural Resources to create and implement a marine debris collection pilot project.

To Be Continued…

At the current time, we do not know when or if the state legislative session will reconvene in 2020. If it does, it is very likely that both the form of the meetings and the topics of discussion will be altered significantly. HFIA will provide details on all new bills and regulations in our Weekly Update emails. We also encourage all members who are interested to participate in calls with the Government Relations Committee during session.

Feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] with any questions.

 

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