Appleseed agenda 2021: stop cuts, boost working families and the economy

As Hawaiʻi’s residents struggle to negotiate the impacts of the pandemic and economic recession, it’s more important than ever that we invest in our people. Hawaiʻi Appleseed’s work during the 2021 legislative session focuses on the areas most critical to preserving the strength and stability of Hawaiʻi people, families and communities.

Priority #1 – Protecting Hawaiʻi’s People and Economy from Harmful Cuts by Raising Revenue

Facing massive unemployment, coupled with the isolation brought on by the pandemic, our people need government services and resources more than ever. So does our economy.

Spending is the fuel that keeps our economic engines running. As the private sector engine of our economy sputters, the government needs to throttle up its spending to keep the economy going. Past recessions have shown us that state spending cuts just exacerbate the economic damage. Simply slashing the budget, without finding revenue to fund the most critical services and spending, will be devastating to our economy and our people.

For this reason, Hawaiʻi Appleseed is supporting the following revenue-raising measures:

  • SB56 (Progressive Revenue Omnibus)
  • HB445/SB1300 (Increases Estate Tax)
  • HB286 (REITs reporting)
  • HB133/SB154 (Increases Capital Gains Tax)
  • SB1147 (Tobacco Tax Increase)
  • SB276 (Personal Income Tax Increase on the Rich)

Priority #2 – Avoiding a Tsunami of Pandemic-Related Evictions

The pandemic has left tens of thousands of tenants unable or struggling to pay rent. The magnitude of the problem threatens the entire housing ecosystem—families that need a home and landlords that rely on rent to pay their mortgages.

Evicting tenants en masse would be an economic and social catastrophe for all of us, spiking the state’s already unacceptable houseless population while doing nothing to help improve the odds that landlords on the whole will see the rent payments they need. Evictions would also pose an increased public health risk as many tenants would need to move in with friends or relatives.

To preserve housing for families, sustain the housing ecosystem, and avoid exacerbating our public health crisis, Hawaiʻi Appleseed continues to push for development of well-crafted housing subsidy programs using federal funds, which will help get the rent paid. In addition, we are supporting housing bills aimed at avoiding the consequences of mass evictions:

  • HB1376/SB1388 will provide for a gradual phasing out of the eviction moratorium, providing households an opportunity to catch up on rent as support becomes available, and allowing time for the public health crisis to dissipate. Additionally, these bills will encourage mediation that can lead to better outcomes than the lose-lose of eviction and lost rental income.
  • SB206/SB1135/SB36 make it unlawful to discriminate based on a tenant’s source of income, avoiding the problem we saw in recent months of landlords refusing to accept pandemic rental assistance, and addressing a long-standing issue of landlords refusing to participate in the Section 8 program, resulting in tenants in need being unable to find a home despite having the resources to pay the rent.

Other Priorities – Wages, Food Security and More

In addition to these two top priority areas, we are focusing on other measures that will support Hawaiʻi’s struggling residents with access to nutritious food, fair wages, affordable housing and equitable treatment. Some of the bills we are working on include:

  • SB676 – Increasing Hawaiʻi’s minimum wage to $12 in July 2022. We are asking the bill be amended to phase in an increase to $17 by 2026.
  • HB432 – Extending the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to prevent it from sunsetting at the end of 2022. We are also advocating for making the credit refundable so it reaches the low-income working families that need it most. 
  • HB131 and SB302 – Increasing the Low-Income Household Renters’ Credit, which hasn’t been adjusted for inflation since 1981. 
  • SB143 – Creating a Homeownership Revolving Fund to spur development of affordable homeownership housing projects.
  • SB391 – Authorizing the court to expunge records for certain offenses related to homelessness to mitigate the adverse long-term impacts of criminalization of homelessness.
  • HB200/SB1229 – Setting the state budget. We’ll be monitoring the budget bills closely to ensure that critically needed services and investments are not cut during a time they are needed most.
  • SB512 – Improving the SNAP Double Bucks program to ensure low-income households have greater access to health, locally produced food by removing a $10/day purchasing cap and allowing the purchase of locally raised protein.
  • SB1250 – Creating an emergency food assistance program that would authorize the purchase of food from Hawai‘i producers by community feeding organizations, increasing the capacity of the state’s emergency food network while supporting local food producers.
  • SB742 – Requiring county police departments to collect certain types of data (including race and ethnicity) for police stops, use of force, and arrests. We offered recommendations for standardizing data collection methods across departments, requiring disaggregated data on racial/ethnicity, especially for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islander, and allowing for individuals to select more than one race.
  • SB1320 – Amending the Hawaiʻi State Planning Act (HRS 226-8) to incorporate a regenerative tourism framework that will elevate a new set of business values and reshape tourism in Hawaiʻi to provide greater benefit to residents, local communities and local businesses. Native Hawaiian culture is guiding the new values put forward.