The Maui News
More than half of Maui County’s families live in poverty or don’t have enough income to pay for housing, child care, food, transportation and health care, according to a report released this week by Aloha United Way.
The agency’s threshold for those who have or don’t have enough is covered by the acronym ALICE, which stands for asset limited, income constrained, employed. Such ALICE families have income above the federal poverty level, but they don’t have enough money to cover a basic household budget, the agency reported.
In Maui County, there are 52,134 households, the agency’s report says. And, of those, 51 percent are ALICE families or in poverty.
Statewide, there are 165,013 ALICE households, 37 percent of all households. Another 47,066 households, or 11 percent of the total, live below the level of poverty, the report says. Another 233,821 households, or 52 percent, make enough to make ends meet.
The working poor include child care providers, retail salespeople, wait staff in restaurants, administrative assistants, janitors, housekeepers, landscapers, teaching assistants, mechanics, restaurant cooks and others, it says.
According to the Aloha United Way report, Maui County ranks second — by percentage — as having the most households as being ALICE families or in poverty.
The highest percentage is on the Big Island, where there are 64,201 households, 55 percent of which are ALICE or below. The City and County of Honolulu ranks third by percentage with 46 percent of its 307,703 households in that category, and Kauai has 43 percent of its 21,862 households classified as being financially stretched or in poverty.
More than a third (37 percent) of senior citizen households qualify as ALICE or below, the report says.
According to the report, a household survival budget for a single adult is $28,128 per year, while it’s $72,336 for a family of four. For the family of four, the numbers translate to an hourly wage of $36.17 for one parent or wage earner or $18.09 per hour for two parents or wage earners working.
Housing is a Hawaii family’s single greatest expense, averaging $1,362 monthly for a two-bedroom apartment, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The report says that, on average in 2015, a Hawaii family with two adults, an infant and a preschool-age child saw overall living expenses rise 20 percent from 2007 to 2015. The highest percentage increases were for health care, 77 percent; food, 35 percent; taxes, 32 percent; and child care, 24 percent.
“The choices that ALICE households are forced to make often include living in undesirable housing, cutting back on health care and healthy food options, or forgoing car insurance or repairs,” the report says. “Sometimes that means choosing to pay more for one area, like housing, while sacrificing something else, like quality child care.”
Such choices have a direct impact on public health and safety, the report says.
Also, there are consequences for the community, it says. For example, when individuals or families forgo preventative health care, there’s more employee absenteeism, and health care costs and insurance premiums escalate.
The report is aimed at providing information for public policy, philanthropy, allocation of resources and delivery of services.
The full report is at www.auw.org or www.mauiunitedway.org.