Price of paradise? Half of isle households can't cover basic needs: report

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly half of Hawaii households are unable to make ends meet.

That's the conclusion of a new report from Aloha United Way, which sought to better understand how many people in the islands are struggling to cover expenses.

The report says that 11 percent of Hawaii households live in poverty, while 37 percent — or 165,013 households — live above the poverty line but don't bring in enough to cover basic needs.

Zi Jun Liu, a senior at McKinley High School, says his family has been struggling to make ends meet here in Hawaii since moving from China.

He says his aspirations of going to college and becoming an engineer may have to be put on hold, so he can get a job to help his parents with the bills.

"When we need to go to the supermarket, they have to pick and choose what grocery to buy. It really hurts our living condition because our money in the bank, when it goes down, we really have no way to raise it back up," Liu said.

The report also found that one third of senior households don't earn enough to meet basic needs.

The nonprofit said that to survive in Hawaii, a single adult needs to make at least $28,128 a year.


And a four-person family needs to make a household income of $72,336.

Aloha United Way dubbed families who are above the federal poverty line but can't make ends meet "ALICE" — or "Asset Limited, Income, Constrained, Employed."

"The choices that ALICE households are forced to make often include living in undesirable housing, cutting back on health care and healthy food options or forgoing car insurance or repairs," Aloha United Way said, in its report.

"Sometimes that means choosing to pay more for one area, like housing, while sacrificing something else, like quality child care. These choices have a direct impact on the health, safety and future of these families and individuals. They also have consequences for our community."

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