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Job program needed now to stop economic tragedy

Maui needs a broadly funded job program now or will face ongoing social and economic tragedy.

At the start of the pandemic, Maui posted among the highest rates of unemployed in the entire United States, at around 35 percent. These levels matched and exceeded those at the height of the Great Depression, when federal jobs programs were created to put Americans to work. The continuing crisis signals acute economic distress for many months to come.

The alternatives to a jobs program are untenable. Doing nothing means starvation and exodus from the island. The current course is to continue extending unemployment, but checks are a blunt instrument unsatisfying to budgets and those receiving them alike. Meaningful work is foundational to well-being and happiness.

For months, those whose jobs have been lost and who see no return in sight have felt listless. None of the contemplated stimulus will curb the creeping dissatisfaction of people who love this island who are longing to work.

The program should train up our people and deploy them to tackle the education, housing, food and ecological crises we are facing. It should be large enough to include all non-working citizens of the island and sophisticated enough to add to the success of existing businesses.

Most importantly, a jobs program should put people to work immediately. Surely there are the means. Island life is precious for many reasons. One is our futures are inextricably bound together.

Josh Downer

Lahaina

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