comscore Kokua Line: Eligible Oahu households hurt by pandemic may seek $2,500 a month to pay for child care, other bills | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Hawaii News | Kokua Line

Kokua Line: Eligible Oahu households hurt by pandemic may seek $2,500 a month to pay for child care, other bills

Question: My daughter will be in second grade on the “blended schedule,” which means that she won’t be on campus every day. (Fingers crossed that school opens at all.) I’ve barely kept my job through all this, but as of now I am still working full time and I don’t want to quit. I am a single mom. I cannot work from home and neither can my ex. Neither of us has money to pay a babysitter all day, three days a week. Since school ended in March and through the summer, we’ve been depending on extended family and friends for child care, plus my ex’s furlough weeks. But that has limits, and we were counting on regular school to start. I am running out of hope. What are parents like us supposed to do? Quit our jobs? My 8-year-old cannot be home alone for “online learning.”

Q: I was denied unemployment because the job I lost was part time and I still have my full-time job. But my family’s monthly expenses (mortgage, car payment, tuition, etc.) are based on the money I made from both jobs, and now we are really stretched thin and burning through savings. My part-time job was in Waikiki, and who knows when that will be back. It feels like families like us are falling through the gap. I know we are not alone. Any suggestions?

Answer: Honolulu County’s COVID-19 Household Hardship Relief Fund still has plenty of its $25 million in CARES Act funding to disperse, said Shaun “Keola” Fisher, spokesman for the Department of Community Service.

Assuming that you meet income restrictions and other requirements, you and others in similar circumstances might qualify for up to $2,500 a month per household. The money would be paid directly to vendors, not to you personally, and could be used for such expenses as mortgage (up to $2,000 a month), rent, electrical or gas bills, and licensed child care and senior care.

The child care must be from a provider recognized by the state Department of Human Services. Schools adopting online or blended learning programs are aware that some parents need child care during off-campus days, so many are working with area providers to coordinate coverage. This program might help parents pay for it. All $2,500 of the maximum monthly benefit may go toward child care if necessary, Fisher said.

The annual income eligibility limits are higher than some readers assume: around $96,400 for a family of two and $120,500 for a family of four, as long as other liquid assets are limited. People who are working full time might qualify, as long as they show pandemic-related hardship, Fisher said. For the first reader, the hardship would be unexpected child care expenses for an elementary-age child whose campus schedule is disrupted by COVID-19. For the second, the hardship would be the loss of income from the part-time job, as long as the job loss was because of the pandemic, he said.

Although this program began in May, households can still get the full value ($15,000 over six months) by showing eligible expenses in May, June or July, such as overdue electrical bills or rent, Fisher said. Eligibility must be renewed each month, with the final payments to be issued in October to landlords, property managers, utilities, preschools, day care providers and other vendors.

To establish eligibility, applicants must provide copies of tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs, leases or mortgage statements to the extent available. Don’t let the daunting list of documents dissuade you from looking into this program — it’s meant to help people like you.

The program is being administered for Honolulu County by the Aloha United Way and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, through which any Oahu applicant can apply. For AUW, call 211 or search for the program name at auw.org. For CNHA, call 596-8155 or check hawaiiancouncil.org.

Do you qualify?

For information, including about income limits for larger families, visit the Department of Community Services website, honolulu.gov/dcs.


Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email kokualine@staradvertiser.com.


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