Laid-Off Pineapple Workers May Get Help from State

Bob Bevacqua
Bob Bevacqua

(KHNL)  Anxious to learn what will happen to their homes, hundreds of plantation workers in Kunia can do nothing but wait.

"The people are nervous, they're really jittery about their house," said Bob Bevacqua, a former Kunia superintendent.

Del Monte this month announced plans to close its pineapple plantation in 2008, clouding the future for the plantation village that many workers called home.

Bevacqua's already lost his job, but he headed to the State Capitol to fight for those still at the Kunia Del Monte plantation.

"People are fearful or being laid off or when they'll be laid off and they don't know the fate of their house," Bevacqua said.

State lawmakers responded, passing out of committee a plan to help plantation workers stay in their homes.

"The package i'm looking at would include grants and low-interest loans for the purchase and rehabilitation of housing units as well as providing rental assistance," said Sen. Ron Menor, Consumer Protection chairman.

"We cannot allow that housing to leave the market," said Governor  Linda Lingle.

"We have to keep that housing available for the people in the area," Lingle said. "We cannot have hundreds of additional families out looking for housing in a market that just doesn't have much affordable housing."

Bevacqua said residents of the plantation village want to be able to buy their homes. Failing that, they hope to be able to rent them long term.