State legislators on Tuesday, May 3, took a stand for working families in Hawai‘i, passing several key measures including an increase to the state’s minimum wage.
House Bill 2510 incrementally raises the minimum wage to $18 an hour by 2028 and makes 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,” state Rep. Jeanné Kapela, chairperson of the Working Families Legislative Caucus, said in a press release. “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.”
Lawmakers also approved Senate Bill 206, which prohibits rental discrimination against those who receive Section 8 housing assistance. Minimum wage workers needed to work 114 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom apartment in the islands in 2021, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.
“Housing is a human right,” state Rep. Amy Perruso, a Working Families Caucus member, said in the press release. “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 adults in the state Medicaid program. The state cut the funding in 2009 during the economic downturn caused by the Great Recession..
“Medicaid beneficiaries represent about 25% of Hawai‘i’s population, but roughly 47% of all dental services provided by emergency rooms statewide,” Kapela said in the release. “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, authorizing the state Department of Human Services to provide additional housing assistance subsidies of up to $500 per month to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Temporary Assistance for Other Needy Families program participants.
“Hawai‘i has over $350 million in unspent (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) reserve funds, which is more than three times our annual (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) block grant amount,” Perruso said in the release. “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.”