As economic toll of pandemic mounts, families face tough decisions

Published: Apr. 24, 2020 at 10:22 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a state where many live paycheck to paycheck, many have lost that paycheck ― and are facing a weeks-long wait for unemployment benefits.

The financial stress is wearing on many.

And there’s no telling how long the economic pain will last.

Jodi Kealoha owns a small stand-up paddle boarding business on Oahu’s North Shore. As a single mother, she went from working 70 hours a week to zero.

She is still waiting for her unemployment checks come in, and the bills are piling up.

“I’ve sold a few things from my business just to get by, just to make sure my lights don’t get cut off, just to make sure I can feed my son,” said Kealoha.

Kealoha said the past month has been a nightmare for her and her 7-year-old son Koa and she’s not sure she can last another month.

“I’m feeling discouraged. I’m feeling like I’m at my tipping point. I’m feeling like my patience for what’s entitled to us is running out. I’m feeling anxiety, stress,” Kealoha said.

Britt Young, a licensed marriage and family therapist, says many are struggling with how to move forward. Some 250,000 Hawaii workers have filed for unemployment, more than one-third of the state’s workforce, and tens of thousands more are facing fewer hours or concern over the future.

Young says as the shock of a global pandemic fades away, other worries are beginning to set in.

“There’s a lot of fear, there’s anxiety,” Young said.

“We believe that a lot of depression is starting to set in and starting to see a bit of a panic response from those who don’t really know what their life is gonna look like in three to four months.”

Kealoha said that some of her neighbors are running out of food, and some are running out of hope.

"People are going to bed hungry,” Kealoha said. “It’s survival of the fittest.”

Young said the residual effects of this can be long-lasting and life-changing.

“Those who have significant financial concerns, they tend to now be thinking about self-preservation, survival mode and making decisions out of fear,” said Young.

The state Department of Health has an Adult Mental Health Division with people available to talk 24/7.

Oahu residents call 832-3100. Neighbor islands call 1-800-753-6879.

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