Financial Struggles of Hawaiʻi’s Working Families

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Hawaiʻi Appleseed’s 2016 survey found that almost half of Hawaiʻi residents describe their financial situation as surviving “paycheck to paycheck.” The vast majority flag high housing costs and low wages as major concerns as well as support tax credits that let working families keep more of what they earn.

The telephone survey of 503 Hawaiʻi residents, conducted by QMark Research in February 2016, revealed the financial struggles that many working families currently face across the state. Some of the highlights include:

  • Half (48%) currently describe their own personal financial situation as being “paycheck to-paycheck.”
  • One in four (25%) have at some point worried about how they would pay that month’s rent or mortgage.
  • One in five (21%) have worried about how they would come up with enough money to pay their monthly utility bill.
  • One in five (20%) have faced medical crisis bills that caused financial worry and hardship.
  • Seventeen percent have worried about being able to provide basics, such as food on the table, for loved ones.

The poll results also show that Hawaiʻi residents are highly concerned about the state’s high cost of housing and low wages and that they support tax credits to help them make ends meet:

  • 95% identify the high cost of housing as a very serious or important problem in Hawaiʻi.
  • Almost nine in ten (89%) believe the low wages paid to many residents are a very serious or important concern.
  • Six out of seven (86%) indicate support for a tax credit that lets low and moderate income working families keep more of what they earn.

“This research shows how, even as Hawaiʻi recovers from the recession, thousands of our neighbors struggle day to day to support themselves and their families,” said Gavin Thornton, co-executive director of Hawaiʻi Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice. “Our state is the second-worst in the nation when it comes to taxing low-income residents, but targeted tax credits, such as an improved low-income household renters tax credit, can help better balance the tax burden among us.”