Hawaii’s poor ranking in report on child economic well-being a ‘warning bell,’ advocates say

Published: Jun. 21, 2021 at 2:44 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 2:45 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new nationwide report puts Hawaii 44th in the nation for the economic well-being of children, down from 25th a year before.

And advocates say the state-by-state study, based on 2019 numbers, doesn’t take into account the significant toll the pandemic took on Hawaii’s working families.

The 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book put Hawaii 26th in the nation for overall child well-being, down from 17th a year earlier.

The data released Monday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks states on the well-being of children across four indicators: Economic well-being, education, health and family/community trends.

Of the four categories, Hawaii experienced the largest plunge in economic well-being ranking.

While Hawaii did see some improvements, Hawaii’s gains lagged behind the rest of the nation.

Deborah Zysman, executive director of Hawaii Children’s Action Network, said the data should inspire policymakers to act boldly.

“By revealing that Hawaii’s keiki were falling behind the rest of the nation even before the pandemic, the newest KIDS COUNT Data Book should be a warning bell to everyone who cares about our state’s children,” Zysman said, in a news release.

Ivette Rodriguez Stern, a junior specialist at the University of Hawaii Center on the Family, called the report’s conclusions “concerning.”

“We are once again facing the threat of a greater share of our keiki growing up in economic hardship, which can have long-lasting effects on education and future employment,” she said.

The KID COUNT report put Hawaii eighth in the nation for child poverty ― but policymakers not that ranking uses Census figures that don’t consider Hawaii’s high cost of living.

In March, 61% of Hawaii households with children reported a loss of employment income since the start of the pandemic compared to 49% nationally, according to the children’s action network.

The release of the report coincided with the first Child Tax Credit Awareness Day to “help low-income families — who may have such low incomes that they are not required to file taxes — to use a new, easy child tax credit sign-up tool to help give their children a lifeline out of poverty.”

Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, said the expansion of the tax credit will benefit 277,000 children in Hawaii and reduce child poverty by an estimated 34%.

Families would previously get a tax credit when they file their taxes. Now, child tax credit payments ― of $250 to $200 monthly ― will be provided upfront beginning in July.

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