Schools will have to absorb $ 5 million they used to buy PPE at the start of the pandemic
HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – Public schools will need to absorb the nearly $ 5 million they used to purchase personal protective equipment at the start of the pandemic.
This is money they thought they were getting back in federal emergency funds.
During a legislative briefing on Wednesday, state education officials said they were under the impression that PPE expenses would be reimbursed by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.
“In the beginning, schools provided and took the proactive steps to obtain PPE,” Deputy Superintendent Randall Tanaka told state senators.
The DOE said the agency did not explain why they changed course about two months ago, but they hinted it may be related to federal changes to emergency fund rules.
“We were prepared to seek reimbursements from HI-EMA before FEMA changed the rules and that did not happen,” said Brian Hallett, DOE chief financial officer.
Tanaka added, “So we sit down on this, I would call it debt, as we figure out how to balance that responsibility.”
Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said the unexpected loss of nearly $ 5 million is forcing the DOE to make more changes at a time when it already faces a huge funding gap.
“We need to resolve this issue and look forward to planning for the summer and the next school year,” she said.
HI-EMA told Hawaii News Now that they are not responsible for the reimbursement but are responsible for the distribution of the PPE units. A spokesperson said they spent millions keeping schools safe.
Schools have a 60-day supply of PPE, including face shields, plexiglass and cleaning supplies.
Inventory is taken every Friday and restocked to maintain supply.
The education ministry told lawmakers it had submitted a claim for reimbursement to the state’s budget and finance ministry.
State Senator Michelle Kidani also said she has briefed the governor on the situation and hopes he will step in to help make the schools whole.
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