The economic hardships of the pandemic in Hawaii haven’t been equally distributed

Updated: Mar. 15, 2021 at 5:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - While Hawaii’s economic recovery seems to be beginning, a financial comeback will take much longer for the state’s lower wage and service workers, experts say.

Pina Mamone lost her food service job a year ago while expecting her fifth child.

“I was pretty much couch surfing, bouncing from house to house,” she said. ”We did live in the car for a bit, which was really hard.”

With the help of Hope Services, she eventually got a job in home heath care and a roof over their heads.

But economist Carl Bonham says even with unemployment benefits and stimulus checks, thousands of Hawaii service workers are behind on their bills.

While Hawaii's economic recovery seems to be beginning, for some a financial comeback will...
While Hawaii's economic recovery seems to be beginning, for some a financial comeback will take much longer than others as experts say the pandemic has been profoundly tougher on lower-wage and services workers.(Pina Mamone)

Meanwhile, many higher income folks were able to work from home and may actually be better off.

“Above median income people are seeing their wealth go up because of rising property values,” Bonham said. “They have seen their stock portfolios go up. They’ve got pent up savings because they didn’t travel.”

Meanwhile, residents like Mamone are just barely surviving.

“It’s trying to make sure I can take care of current bills and paying the rent,” Mamone said.

“Making sure I pay the electric, car insurance, all of that stuff is of course top priority. Then, it comes down to figure out what back bills can I afford to pay this month or this week and just kind of catch up that way. It’s a struggle.”

Mamone is thankful for Hope Services helping her in several ways, including budgeting.

But even with help, a job and housing, there’s a long road ahead.

“Looking at budget-wise and what my current bills are to be at a comfortable space in life, it is going to be at least another year.” Mamone said.

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