HONOLULU - Organizations offering services to Hawaii's needy have had their budgets slashed by 19 percent since the financial crisis hit in 2008, and they've lost 16 percent of their staff, an advocacy group for the poor said Tuesday.
The Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice said it surveyed 13 organizations that provide services to abused children and spouses, the homeless, the elderly and others needing help. The Salvation Army, Child and Families Services, and Catholic Charities Hawaii are among the organizations.
The Honolulu-based group published the survey as part of a broader report on conditions for Hawaii's poor. Victor Geminiani, the executive director, said the report aims to bring attention to the issue while the state Legislature is in session and lawmakers are making decisions about their priorities.
"I don't think the needs of the poverty community are normally given the attention that they need. Obviously our report tries to underline the fact that the extent of the difficulties being encountered by the poor population of the community is significant," Geminiani said.
The 13 organizations primarily pay for their programs with federal and state grants and contracts, he said. In 2008, they collectively had budgets totaling $141 million. By 2001, this had dropped to $115 million.
They also had 2,259 staffers when the financial crisis hit, and 1,898 staff members three years later.
"These families provide crucial services to Hawaii's most disadvantaged individuals and families, and their ability to continue providing these services has been seriously compromised at a time when low-income people need them the most," the report said.
The report also pointed out that Hawaii is the state with the third-highest homelessness rate and that children account for 42 percent of Hawaii's homeless population. It highlighted the high tax burden on low-income families in the islands, as well as the high cost of living. The report says 75 percent of poor households spend more than half their income on rent.
State senators Tuesday passed an $11 billion budget draft they believe will reinforce the state's safety net, improve information technology services and create new jobs. It's the first time since 2009 that the state is not facing a severe deficit.