Rise to Work provides nearly 300 jobs

LIHU‘E — In a Monday video, the County of Kaua‘i Kupa‘a Kaua‘i program announced 280 displayed workers on Kaua‘i were hired by 100 local employers into the Rise to Work program.

“Our Office of Economic Development launched the Rise to Work program last year, which utilized CARES Act money to assist displaced workers,” Mayor Derek Kawakami said.

According to Kawakami, the jobs, some full-time and some part-time, included laborers, administrative staff, artists, educators, skilled trades workers, photographers, website designers, and many more. Workers received health insurance and weekly paychecks from island small businesses and local nonprofits.

It’s a win-win situation for both the employers and the newly hired employees, the mayor said.

“The employers got needed help to keep their businesses open, and the employees, in addition, to pay and health insurance, received new skills training, networking and new confidence,” Kawakami said. “We are thrilled by the success of this jobs program. Mahalo to our team at OED and all of our employers who participated.”

In the county’s Rise to Work video, baker and owner Orly Yadao of Orly Patisserie in Puhi discusses the benefits of this program for his business.

“This program had impacted my business,” Yadao said. “When I heard about it I was delighted. We were able to hire about five employees to come in. This program helped me because I didn’t have to worry about, you know, where the money is coming from to pay them. It really did help me relieve some of the stress that I had.

“I’m so happy to have them because they are willing to learn and do whatever it takes to get the job done, and I definitely would love to keep them,” Yadao added.

Rise to Work participant Julie Gardner saw many benefits with the program.

“I got hired at Kaua‘i Sailing Association,” Gardner said. “It’s been awesome to have a paycheck every week. It was such a relief to have health insurance, especially during a global pandemic. But it’s also just been so great to have a purpose again.”

Sariah Kanahele found work with Kaua‘i Government Employees Federal Credit Union through the program.

“Rise to Work allowed me to provide for my family when my unemployment ran out. It was such a blessing,” Kanahele said.

For participants like Jade Moss, a mother of two keiki, this program came at the right time.

“Rise to Work gives me and my family a breath of relief from being furloughed since March,” Moss said. “I had the pleasure of working with a great team at Hua Moon Women’s Health, and I know their business benefited greatly. It was a win-win program.”

During the pandemic, food distributions were in high demand, and Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Director Wes Perreira explained how this program helped his food program.

“Throughout this pandemic, the needs of the communities we serve expanded beyond anyone’s imagination,” Perreira said. “Yet the county and many nonprofit agencies like the Hawai‘i Foodbank came together and responded in life-changing ways. Through its leadership and creation of programs like the Rise to Work program, the Kawakami administration will always be remembered for its heroic work during this global pandemic.”

Like many other employers in this program, the owners of The Spot Kaua‘i and The Spot North Shore, Ellie Marcus and Nani Lane, expressed their gratitude.

“We are so grateful for the opportunity the Rise to Work Program afforded us,” Marcus and Lane said. “Hiring back old employees and recruiting new ones enabled us to extend our days and hours of operation to generate more revenue during this challenging time. Our employees were so thankful to have an opportunity to work at a competitive wage and receive health insurance benefits as well.

“The team at the county and ProService were responsive and supportive during all the changes that occurred during the course of the program, and were instrumental in helping us maximize the benefit of this generous, well-thought-out county initiative. We’d like to extend a warm mahalo to all who helped make this happen and supported small businesses on Kaua‘i,” Marcus and Lane added.

Finally, county Economic Development Specialist Michelle Lopes broke down the importance of this program for the Kaua‘i community.

“This amazing program came at a time when residents needed it the most,” Lopes said. “It has aided in mental-health stability, medical coverage and cash flow for some who did not qualify or couldn’t wait for their unemployment benefits.

“Although temporary, it helped push them through to the new year. Such a silver lining for the employees to gain new work skills, which in turn boosted their resumes,” said Lopes.

For more information, see kauaiforward.com/RisetoWork/.

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