Staying afloat

LIHUE — Federal and state assistance programs help keep many Hawaii residents living above the poverty line, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

According to the study, one-third of the children in Hawaii would be living below the poverty level, about 75,000 keiki statewide, without the help of programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Social Security, and Medicaid.

Those keiki are part of the estimated 220,000 people in Hawaii who rely on assistance programs to stay above the poverty line, which is $27,950 per year for a family of four.

MaBel Fujiuchi, CEO for Kauai Economic Opportunity, said these programs are definitely helping people on Kauai.

“Food stamps, Section 8, HUD and housing subsidies, all really help out,” she said. “There’s US Department of Agriculture for food, especially for children in school where they’re able to get subsidized meals.”

She said KEO’s focus is really on those residents living below the poverty line, which is about 9 percent of the island’s population, according to the organization.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report, Social Security keeps 110,000 Hawaii residents above the poverty line each year and the program has cut the elderly poverty rate from 47.9 percent to 16.4 percent.

The SNAP program helps push about 74,000 Hawaii residents above the poverty line and housing assistance helps keep about 40,000 people afloat. About 340,000 Hawaii residents have coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

“Federal programs keep a lot of people above the poverty line,” Fujiuchi said. “They are really important.”

She said the biggest contributors to dipping below the poverty line on Kauai are lack of financial resources and housing, which is “probably the highest expense anyone needs to face on the island.”

“Education is also a very large contributor,” Fujiuchi said. “We see it as a concern because people are not able to obtain or maintain jobs that will pay for all of their expenses and needs.”


Associated Press contributed to this report.


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