Economic recovery should focus on working families

To begin, it is time to deliver a living wage to Hawaiʻi’s workers, many of whom serve as essential employees. A 2019 study conducted by the Hawaiʻi Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice found that raising the minimum wage would give 269,000 workers roughly $4,356 more in annual earnings, which would be circulated back into the local economy as low-wage workers spend their extra earnings on food, clothing and other essential needs.

Additionally, lawmakers should pass legislation permanently exempting unemployment payments from the state’s income tax. Whether we’re overcoming a public health emergency or enjoying a booming economy, people who have lost their jobs should not face a tax burden for receiving wage insurance as they search for a new source of income.

Finally, delivering paid sick and family leave is critical in creating a people-oriented economic recovery. Low-income workers are less likely than their more affluent neighbors to receive sick or family leave benefits that allow them to take time off to protect their personal and their families’ health. Employees frequently lose their jobs or are disciplined for taking leave to care for themselves or their loved ones.

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