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We continue to be #MauiStrong because we help one another

COUNCIL'S 3 MINUTES

For the past several months, COVID-19 has challenged us, dominated our thoughts and unfairly changed life as we know it.

This pandemic has triggered historic levels of unemployment, knocked our economy off its foundations and pushed countless households into survival mode. Many small businesses have closed their doors, some temporarily and others permanently.

Even as we learn to adjust to the new norms of social distancing, masks and self-isolation, it is evident that many in our community are struggling to adapt. Many of us are hurting from the social isolation and economic loss.

According to a recent report published by Bank of Hawaii Foundation, the pandemic’s impacts have taken a major toll on residents’ income, mental health and access to food and household supplies.

Women are reported as more likely to have sought assistance from a food bank or food drive and more likely to have difficulties paying their rent or mortgage. They are also more worried about losing their health care coverage.

Native Hawaiian and Filipino residents are reported to be facing the most pressure because of the pandemic. They have been more likely to experience a decline in household income, food security and employment security, resulting in higher degree of financial stress. They have also been more likely to struggle paying bills, including their rent or mortgage.

The report also notes that 51 percent of all Maui County residents worry about being able to afford basic necessities. Statewide, 43 percent of residents feel lonely, 42 percent feel pessimistic about the future, and 34 percent feel overwhelmed during this time.

The report can be viewed at tinyurl.com/bankofhawaiicovidreport.

We simply cannot get through this alone — nor do we have to. As a unique society that thrives in the spirit of aloha, we must stay connected with our families, friends and community to make sure that not a single person falls through the cracks.

We must stay vigilant for the first warning signs of depression, anxiety or even suicidal thoughts, even if it means stepping outside your comfort zone; take a moment to ask if a person is OK or needs help.

While we are acutely aware of the risks and effects of COVID-19, it is equally important to pay careful attention to the overall health and wellness of others and, most important, yourself.

If you or someone you know is experiencing grief, stress or worry, you can contact the state Department of Health support line at (800) 753-6879. This service will connect you with a trained, experienced professional who can offer assistance and support.

You can also text “ALOHA” to 741741 to be connected to support services for mental illness.

There are also things you can do to help support your friends and family, including reaching out to an elderly friend with a phone call to say hello, dropping off groceries or produce to an isolated neighbor or offering to help someone in need by cooking a meal, assisting with gardening or simply talking through problems they are facing.

There’s no limit to the ways we can be a blessing and provide support for someone in need.

While we have faced many challenges in our community, Maui County remains united in our support and aloha for one another. Together, we will emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever.

We are and will always be #MauiStrong.

* Tasha Kama is chairwoman of the council Affordable Housing Committee. She holds the council seat for the Kahului residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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