Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
As I write this, the legislature is at the halfway point. Bills have crossed over between the House and Senate and those bills that survive the crossover will go to conference committee and possible final passage.
For now, bills that advance two AARP Hawai‘i’s priorities – affordable housing and support for family caregivers – are still alive.
A section of House Bill 1049, Gov. Josh Green’s affordability plan, expands the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit from $2,400 to $10,000 for eligible taxpayers with one qualifying dependent or from $4,800 to $20,000 for taxpayers with two or more qualifying dependents. The credit covers expenses for household services or the care of adult or child dependents who meet eligibility criteria. It’s especially useful for “sandwich generation” caregivers who are taking care of a parent and raising children.
AARP Hawai‘i is also supporting House Bill 1486 to restore funds for the Kupuna Care program. Kupuna Care provides an array of home and community-based services such as home/chore services, adult daycare and offers respite to working caregivers so that they can continue to support their loved ones as they age safely in their homes.
We are also pushing bills to keep vulnerable küpuna in their homes and reduce the number of homeless. Senate Bill 898 will help küpuna having difficulty paying rent. Once küpuna have been evicted for not paying rent, it is nearly impossible for them to return to affordable housing. Helping küpuna who have difficulty paying their rent will keep them from being evicted and becoming homeless.
For those who have been evicted, House Bill 1397 will help get kupuna off the streets. It’s based on supportive housing programs that have been successful in other places. The bill gives the State Office on Homelessness and Housing Solutions the authority and funding to work with other housing agencies to develop pilot rental housing projects with units for people and families with special needs. This includes frail elderly and those who require supportive services, including physical and mental health services, counseling, employment services and support with daily living activities.
This point in the legislature is crucial for bills. To survive, bills face full House and Senate votes and must get through the conference committee process.
You can help us help küpuna by going to action.aarp.org/HIfamilycaregivers to learn more about the issue and send a message to your elected representative to ask them to help family caregivers. We’ve set up another url action.aarp.org/kupunahousing where you can learn more and send another message to lawmakers asking them to support Senate Bill 898 and House Bill 1397.
If you’re interested in learning more about the legislature, and city and county councils, writing testimony and letters to the editor and generally helping to pass legislation to make our communities better places to live for everyone from keiki to küpuna, email our advocacy director Audrey Suga-Nakagawa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re always looking for people willing to fight for the benefit of others.
Craig Gima is the 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.