Dollars and Services: The Complementary Roles of Financial Assistance and Social Services at LT


By Penn Pantumsinchai

Photo: Penn Pantumsinchai

Between March and August 2020, Liliʻuokalani Trust (LT) committed up to $1 million to help with “emergency financial stabilization” for kamaliʻi and their ʻohana. These small, one-time awards helped to offset the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As LT begins to implement the directions and activities identified in its updated 2020-2025 strategic plan, it is important to strike a balance between the use of resources for direct services and for financial assistance. LT looked at the evidence regarding the relative benefit of financial assistance compared to social services.

The pervasive, negative effects of poverty on the development and future wellbeing of kamaliʻi are well established. While larger, sustained financial assistance does help ease the effects of poverty, money alone is usually insufficient. Comparatively small, short-term financial assistance can provide crucial resources in an emergency and help prevent the slide into poverty, but we found only limited published research on this.

Services including financial assistance, social, educational, and vocational programs using a positive youth development approach promote healthy development and wellbeing. Providing both resources and programs can alleviate chronic stress for parents struggling to meet their families’ basic needs.

While education is valuable at any age, the return on investment in children’s early years is higher than investments in education later in life. Therefore, LT is planning an early childhood center that will provide residential and day services to young parents and their children.

Using a positive youth development framework can improve the quality of services while addressing the unique needs of the opportunity youth population. Although LT offers a variety of programs for kamaliʻi, all use the positive youth development framework; all focus on increasing knowledge, use, and pride in traditional Hawaiian cultural practices, history, language, and a deeper understanding of a Hawaiian worldview.

Moving forward, LT will work with kamaliʻi in supporting them on their pathways to long-term economic sustainability. LT will continue to bring a cultural lens to services for Native Hawaiian ʻohana that can strengthen their wellbeing, build resiliency, connect them to the larger community, and support healthy youth development.

To view LT’s Strategic Plan go to:


Penn Pantumsinchai is a Research & Evaluation manager at Liliʻuokalani Trust with the Research, Evaluation & Strategy team. She received her masters and doctorate in sociology from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She is a co-host of an educational sociology podcast, “The Social Breakdown” (, which aims to bring the sociological perspective to the general public in a fun, accessible, and informative way.