Last week, Hawai’i started receiving stimulus checks from the federal government. However, the check is not enough to last a month in the state. Reason being is that the cost living in Hawai’i is 20% higher than the national average.
According to Beth Giesting, director of the Hawai’i Budget and Policy Center, that $1,200 check is worth about $960 in the islands. Depending on where one lives will determine the impact of the money.
On Oahu, $1,200 doesn’t cover 50% of the average monthly expenses for a single person. “A one-bedroom apartment costs an average of $1,500 per month,” Giesting said. “Food is budgeted for a single adult at $365 per month, and then you have all of the other things like transportation, healthcare, and miscellaneous taxes. So, the total for that household is $3,000 per month.”
For an Oahu household with a couple and no keiki a $2,400 check accounts for approximately 63% of their average monthly living expenses. Whereas a stimulus check for that same household on the Big Island will approximately cover 73% of their average monthly.
But, when that is added to unemployment insurance and payments, some low-income households could bring home more money per month than before the pandemic.
Since April 18, Hawai’i’s unemployment has received $5,898,000 in plus-up payments. Last week, more than $31 million were paid to claims, greater than the previous eight weeks combined totaling at $28.6 million. The Hawai’i Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has applied for a loan from the Treasury Department for more funds to meet claims.
Hawai’i leads the nation in the highest unemployment rate at 21.7%. About 250,000 claims have been filed as businesses laid off or furloughed workers because of COVID-19.
To improve the claiming process, an unemployment claims center will open at the Hawai’i Convention Center on Wednesday, April 22.
By Allan Salvador
Ka Lā staff writer