(KHNL) Clena Arelong sorts through donations for Goodwill Industries, separating damaged goods from items that can be resold. She's been doing it for almost a year and the paychecks support her family.
But sometimes, just working hard isn't enough.
"One out of three families in Hawaii qualify as low income by federal poverty standard definitions," said Norm Baker, vice president of community building for Aloha United Way.
There's hope for low income workers. A federal tax break called the Earned Income Tax Credit could put thousands of dollars in their pockets.
The federal government is ready to hand out tax refunds of up to $4400 to low income workers, but many people are not taking advantage of the offer. Now the state, Aloha United Way, Goodwill and other agencies are joining forces to let people know how they can apply for the money.
"We want them to know that government doesn't always want their money," said Lt. Gov. James Aiona. "We want to help them, we want to assist them in getting it back."
Too many don't apply for the refunds. Federal officials estimate workers in Hawaii could be collecting an additional $30 million in refunds. Four years ago, the federal government estimated 19 thousand families in Hawaii were eligible for these tax breaks. Today, that number could be even higher.
A coalition of agencies have created a network of free tax assistance workshops to help low income workers apply for the credits. A complete listing of the sites can be found on the program's website at www.hawaiitaxhelp.org.
Statewide, 30 percent of the workers who qualify don't apply for the tax credit.
Clena says plans to apply because she could use some extra money.