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New caucus focuses on issues facing working families

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Fourteen lawmakers have formed a group to focus on legislation to help Hawaii’s working families.

During the upcoming legislative session, the Working Families Caucus will sponsor five bills.

They focus on raising the minimum wage, paid sick and family leave, the earned income tax credit, renter’s credit and exempting unemployment payments from personal income tax.

A bill to raise the minimum wage up to $18 an hour is expected to be introduced. It is currently $10.10 an hour.

Rep. Jeanné Kapela chairs the caucus. While previous proposals on these topics have stalled, Kapela believes the ground has shifted at the Legislature.

“COVID really changed the landscape. We saw so many people suffer, and it's unconscionable that even now, in basically three years into a pandemic, there are workers that had don't have access to paid sick leave," Kapela told HPR. "So we've seen this divide and this gap grow through COVID. And I think the legislature recognizes that.

"And I think that we can't wait any longer because if we do, the gap's just gonna get bigger and more people are going to continue to suffer. And more of these people are going to choose to leave because they can't afford to stay in our state. They can't afford to stay in their homeland. And we can't allow that to happen,” Kapela said.

Caucus membership includes: Rep. Jeanné Kapela (Chair), Rep. Sonny Ganaden, Rep. Cedric Gates, Rep. Matthew LoPresti, Rep. Nicole Lowen, Rep. John Mizuno, Rep. Amy Perruso, Rep. Adrian Tam, Rep. Chris Todd, Rep. Tina Wildberger. The following senators asked to be members: Sen. Laura Acasio, Sen. Stanley Chang, Sen. Kurt Fevella, and Sen. Karl Rhoads.

Jason Ubay is the managing editor at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Send your story ideas to him at jubay@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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