Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
The 2022 Legislature sent several bills to the governor that will benefit kūpuna, caregivers and future retirees.
AARP Hawai‘i’s biggest “win” is the passage of Senate Bill 3289 to create a Hawai‘i retirement savings program that will give more than 200,000 Hawai‘i workers an easy way to save at work.
The Legislature also passed Senate Bill 2679, which should reduce lines at county DMV offices by allowing drivers age 72 to 79 to renew their licenses every four years instead of every two years, beginning Jan. 1, 2023; renewed funding for the Kupuna Caregivers program to provide respite care for working caregivers; and increased funding and staff for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, who investigates complaints about long-term care facilities.
The money for the Kupuna Caregivers and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman are in the larger state budget bill, which help kūpuna and caregivers by including state funding for state and county agencies.
The Hawai‘i retirement savings bill sets up a state-facilitated retirement savings program that will make it easy for businesses, especially small businesses, to offer workers a payroll savings program so money for retirement can be taken out of their paychecks. That’s important because payroll savings is the most effective way to save. Workers are 15 times more likely to save if their money is taken out before they get a chance to spend it. There’s no cost to the business to sign up for the program and the savings program is a benefit that might help them retain good workers.
The bill sets up a board to oversee the program and provides money for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to hire an executive director and a staff member to begin setting up and marketing the program. It also provides $25 million for financial incentives for workers to sign up and save at least $500.
The state will not hold nor invest the worker’s money. That’ll be up to reputable private financial service companies. The board and executive director will oversee the program and select the financial service and account management companies to run the program. It will likely take about two years to do the due diligence, solicit bids and select the companies before workers and businesses can start signing up.
But once the program gets going, it should reduce the number of kūpuna retiring into poverty over time and lower the estimated $1.72 billion cost to state taxpayers over 20 years that would otherwise be spent on social services for kūpuna who do not have enough money to support themselves.
The governor has until June 27 to decide whether to sign the bills and allow them to become law or issue a veto. If you support the measures, you can email the governor’s office and ask him to sign the bills at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can email or call your representative and senator and thank him or her for supporting kūpuna and caregivers. You can find a directory for the Capitol at capitol.hawaii.gov/contact.aspx.
Craig Gima is communications director at AARP Hawai‘i. He is an award-winning multimedia communicator with more than 30 years of experience. A Honolulu native, Gima spent nearly 19 years at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a variety of reporting, editing and online roles before joining AARP in 2016. Gima graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California.