Hawaii State Legislature Passes Measures to Strengthen Financial Security for Working Families
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – On Tuesday, May 2, 2022, the Hawai’i State Legislature passed key measures to strengthen the financial security of Hawai’i’s working families. Among the most crucial proposals passed by lawmakers was House Bill 2510, which will incrementally raise the state’s minimum wage to $18/hour by 2028 and make the earned income tax credit permanent and refundable.
“By passing an $18/hour minimum wage, we are resetting the conversation about what is possible in terms of delivering economic justice to working families for our entire nation,” said Rep. Jeanné Kapela, Chairperson of the Working Families Legislative Caucus. “When this bill’s final raises take effect in 2028, minimum wage workers will earn over $16,000 more than they do today, and the refundable earned income tax credit will only further uplift their financial outlook.”
Additionally, legislators passed Senate Bill 206, which will prohibit rental discrimination against recipients of Section 8 housing vouchers. According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, minimum wage workers needed to work 114 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom apartment in the islands in 2021. Preventing rental discrimination against recipients of housing vouchers is essential in guaranteeing equitable access to housing for low-income families.
“Housing is a human right,” said Rep. Amy Perruso, a Working Families Caucus member. “As Hawai’i’s cost of housing continues to skyrocket, we need to take action to prevent discrimination against financially vulnerable families, for whom racism and classism remain barriers to the obtainment of housing security.”
Policymakers also included $26 million in the state budget to restore dental benefits for adult participants in the Hawai’i Medicaid Program. In 2009, the state cut dental care funding for adults insured by Medicaid to address the economic downturn caused by the Great Recession. Without affordable dental treatment, community members turned to hospital emergency rooms to get help with dental ailments.
“Medicaid beneficiaries represent about 25 percent of Hawai’i's population, but roughly 47 percent of all dental services provided by emergency rooms statewide,” said Rep. Kapela. “This appropriation will ensure that Medicaid recipients can access quality oral healthcare and will produce millions of dollars in medical savings from reduced dental-related hospital visits.”
Finally, lawmakers passed House Bill 2233, which authorizes the Department of Human Services to provide additional housing assistance subsidies of up to $500 per month to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Temporary Assistance for Other Needy Families (TAONF) program participants.
“Hawai‘i has over $350 million in unspent TANF reserve funds, which is more than three times our annual TANF block grant amount,” said Rep. Perruso. “This measure will use some of those funds to assist 4,000 of our most economically challenged families in securing housing, which we should amplify in future years by passing additional housing security proposals, including rent stabilization and a ban on evictions without just cause by unscrupulous landlords.”
Working Families Caucus membership: Rep. Jeanné Kapela (Chair), Rep. Sonny Ganaden, Rep. Cedric Gates, Rep. Matthew LoPresti, Rep. Nicole Lowen, Rep. John Mizuno, Rep. Amy Perruso, Rep. Adrian Tam, Rep. Chris Todd, and Rep. Tina Wildberger. Also, for your information, the following senators asked to be members: Sen. Laura Acasio, Sen. Stanley Chang, Sen. Kurt Fevella, and Sen. Karl Rhoads.