Ka Wai Ola

Aloha mai kākou,

It’s not easy to make it financially in Hawai‘i, where the cost of living is high and affordable housing is scarce. Some of our beneficiaries find having a full-time job isn’t enough – they need two, or sometimes three jobs to make ends meet.

OHA’s mission to improve conditions for Native Hawaiians includes helping our beneficiaries move up the economic ladder. Ho‘okāhua waiwai, or economic self-sufficiency, was identified as a priority in OHA’s 2010-2018 strategic plan, reflecting our commitment to increasing median family income for Hawaiians and putting our beneficiaries in better positions to rent or own homes.

OHA-funded programs take different approaches to uplifting Hawaiians. Some offer education, job training or financial literacy workshops. Others focus on helping our beneficiaries overcome barriers to self-sufficiency, serving young Hawaiians aging out of foster care, mothers recovering from substance abuse and former inmates building new lives after incarceration.

We’ve heard amazing success stories from our grantees, such as Hawaiian Community Assets and Habitat for Humanity Maui, which have helped Hawaiian ‘ohana transition from houselessness to home ownership. At the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement’s convention in October, HCA presented OHA with the 2018 Native Hawaiian Housing Award, noting that the $1.5 million OHA has invested in HCA’s programs since 2011 has helped 338 Hawaiian households – 1,251 individuals – obtain rentals, become homeowners and prevent foreclosures.

But that’s only part of the picture. Since FY11, OHA has invested more than $40 million in housing and housing stability programs, such as the Pūnāwai Program, which provides emergency financial assistance to help stabilize living situations for beneficiaries in need. To support Hawaiian homestead communities, OHA gives $3 million annually to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. In the current grant cycle, OHA has also awarded nearly $1 million over two years to programs that help leaseholders build homes on their lots.

Goodwill Industries Hawai‘i currently has a $720,000 grant to help Native Hawaiians attain short-term vocational training and increase their earning potential, such as commercial driver’s licensure and nursing assistant certification. One of Goodwill’s clients, a single mother who worked 12 hours a week at a retail job that paid $9.25, was able to complete CNA training and move into a full-time job that paid $11.30 an hour – enough for her and her son to move out of her family’s home and into their own apartment.

OHA also helps beneficiaries find financial footing through loan products – consumer microloans for temporary hardship or career advancement, and larger loans through the Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund. In FY18, OHA disbursed 20 consumer microloans totaling $76,801 to beneficiaries who needed assistance with unexpected car and home repairs, medical bills, legal fees, funeral expenses and career advancement. During the same period, $1,200,350 in Mālama Loans were approved to help 48 Hawaiians start and grow businesses, pursue education and make home improvements. Additionally, from FY11 to FY17, OHA disbursed $2.236 million through eight Hua Kanu loans that support established Native Hawaiian-owned businesses.

There’s not a whole lot OHA can do to lower the cost of living or increase the affordable housing inventory, but we can certainly help beneficiaries become more competitive in the job and housing market if they’re willing to put in the work. Native Hawaiians in pursuit of better economic opportunity should explore what OHA has to offer.

‘O au iho nō me ke aloha a me ka ‘oia‘i‘o,

Kamana‘opono M. Crabbe, Ph.D.

Ka Pouhana/Chief Executive Officer