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AUW: Half of Hawaii’s children are living in homes that can’t afford the basics

Research shows about half of the children in Hawaii live in households classified as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed).
Published: Apr. 8, 2022 at 2:48 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly half of Hawaii’s kids live in households that cannot afford the basic cost of living, classified as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed).

That’s according to Aloha United Way.

ALICE is an acronym used by United Way to describe homes that earn above the federal poverty level and oftentimes cannot qualify for government aid, such as rent relief, child care programs or food stamps.

About 35,000 Hawaii children lived in households at or below the federal poverty level in 2019.

But AUW puts the total number of kids living in homes unable to meet basic needs at 140,000.

“These are people who are working hard. These are not people living off the system,” said Aloha United Way CEO John Fink, in an interview with Hawaii News Now.

“Earning too much (to qualify for aid) could mean you make an extra $500 a year. But if you’re paying $2,000 in rent, what’s an extra $500 a year? And earning it keeps you from getting help.”

Fink adds that the federal poverty level is an outdated metric and not an accurate representation of the thousands of hardworking people who are struggling to afford basic necessities.

“They’re not taking into account things like the internet, which every household must have. The price of food has now increased,” Fink said. “This has to be redefined. When you look at these numbers, they’re missing a whole swath of people that fall into what is either one paycheck away from difficulty or even poverty level.”

In Aloha United Way’s last ALICE survey released in 2019 before the pandemic, a family of four needed to earn $91,000 to meet the minimum cost of living in Hawaii.

United Way uses a standardized set of measurements to quantify the cost of a basic household budget in each county in each state to determine ALICE households.

Fink believes more Hawaii families have moved into the ALICE category due to the pandemic.

This year, AUW is releasing reports focused on vulnerable populations within its 2019 survey. Children are the focus on its first one, followed by veterans and then people with disabilities.

AUW is also working on a report to give a more realistic picture of the pandemic’s impact, before the national ALICE report is released in 2023.

ALICE households “don’t have the luxury of time,” Fink said.

“We better figure out ways to help these people become more financially stable, more financially educated so they can make sure they don’t get themselves into bad situations or bad loans or overdue credit cards. That people live within their means and try to put some money aside, which I know is difficult.”

For more on the Aloha United Way report, click here.

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