Hawaii’s high cost of living persists as the top issue government need to address. We need to tackle cost drivers such as housing and early child care. I am committed to ensuring that the historic investments made into building affordable housing actually delivers affordable housing for local residents. I am also committed to making sure we have pathways to good, high-paying jobs so that our keiki can stay here for post-high school education or return back to Hawaii to living-wage jobs in sectors such as health care, digital technology or cyber-security, the creative sector, or the construction and military industries.
BUILDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR HAWAII’S RESIDENTS
I have always and will continue to support investments in building affordable housing for Hawaii’s residents. As House Majority Leader, I helped to champion the historic investments made in affordable housing in the last three years. As we move forward, I will work to hold our government agencies accountable to deliver on these historic investments. I will also continue to find ways to reduce regulatory burden and responsibly streamline permitting and approval processes to ensure that the affordable houses and rental units we need are built. Finally, I will work on supporting those social services programs that prepare people to be homeowners such as mortgage and rental assistance programs, first-time homeowner programs, and financial literacy programs.
ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE EARLY CHILD CARE
After housing, child care costs are the next largest cost identified in Aloha United Way’s 2020 ALICE Report for Hawaii’s working families or Asset-Limited, Income Constrained, Employed population. I have long supported and will continue to support building out Hawaii’s preschool classrooms, ensuring all 3 to 4 year olds in Hawaii have access to quality early learning opportunities, and supporting and growing our early education teacher workforce.
LIVING WAGE JOBS FOR WORKING FAMILIES
In 2022, I supported increasing the minimum wage, making the Hawaii State Earned Income Tax Credit permanent and refundable, and providing a State tax rebate to put more money into the pockets of Hawaii’s working families. Moving forward, I will continue to support creating educational and economic pathways that develop living wage jobs in health, technology, energy, environmental, tourism and creative sectors in Hawaii that will allow our children to stay here and raise their own families. This commitment includes supporting programs like the Department of Education’s Early College Program, the Hawaii Promise Program for the University of Hawaii System, and the Department of Land and Natural Resources Youth Conservation Corps.
TACKLING HOMELESSNESS, MENTAL HEALTH, & SUBSTANCE ABUSE CHALLENGES IN OUR COMMUNITIES
We see the problems caused by homelessness, mental health, and substance abuse challenges in our community everyday. As House Health Chair and now as House Majority Leader, I have worked to stabilize and strengthen our social safety net programs such as our public hospitals, Medicaid, homelessness outreach services through Ohana Zones, and mental health and substance abuse programs through the Hawaii Department of Health. I remain committed to funding these programs, partnering with the federal government to draw down more federal funds, and working with other government agencies such as law enforcement, the City and County of Honolulu’s CORE and HONU programs, the Judiciary’s Women’s Court, Veterans’ Court, and Homeless Outreach Court, and community stakeholders that include health care providers, substance abuse treatment providers, and community health organizations.