Friday, July 25, 2014

Hawaii: Where Even State Employees Live In Poverty

I do love my job as a library assistant (level III) in the Hawaii State Public Library System (HSPLS). I have great paid vacation, paid sick leave, and health insurance benefits. I also qualify for the Federal Housing Program with the Hawaii Public Housing Authority

What a conundrum!

Despite working a 40 hour week, a full-time position with the state of Hawaii, I barely make enough to survive. I make so little-- in a state with the highest average cost of living expenses--that I can qualify to sit on a wait list to be given a place to live. I qualify for public assistance. I qualify for financial aid from the government.

How did it come to this? I went to college, graduated early and with honors. I had internships. Now, I pay my bills. I have good credit. I pay the minimum on my student loans. I pay more than necessary on my credit card. I stretch my last dollar on gas for my car (an essential piece of transportation on the Big Island because the the poor public transit system). 

And, after all of that, I flounder. I struggle. I search for part-time jobs. I try to work nearly every day of the week to keep food in my mouth and gas in my car.

One day, I hope to adopt a child. One day, I hope to inspire that child to be a productive citizen. One day, I want to do more than live paycheck to paycheck. 

But, how can I do this in a state that doesn't value it's own state employees? I make nearly $27,000/year and the income limit for people needing federal public housing assistance on the Big Island Hawai (for a family of one) is $39,100/year. Another $10,000 than I make! 

(P.S. This is the lowest maximum amount a person of one can make in Hawaii. On Oahu, you can make $54,850 and can still turn to the federal housing program after struggling to keep a roof over your head.)

Interestingly enough, if you want to apply for the state housing program in Hawaii (never having been admitted before), you have to make less than $24,450. This is a little lower than the same maximum you can make and still apply for Hawaii food stamps. I don't even make $500 more than that limit.

I ask you: When a state cannot provide for its own employees, how will it provide for its public? When a state cannot pay livable wages to its full-time staff, how will it prosper economically?