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Friday, March 13, 2015
Update: Low Income Legislative Agenda
By News Release @ 11:00 PM :: 4335 Views :: Homelessness, Tax Credits, Taxes

From Hawaii Appleseed Center March 13, 2015

Victory for Mayor Wright Tenants

This week, the Hawaii State Circuit Court entered an order approving Hawaii Appleseed's class action settlement for tenants of the Mayor Wright Homes public housing project. Prior to the lawsuit, residents of the project went for years without hot water, suffered from rat and roach infestations, and lived in fear of criminal activity by non-residents that plagued the property. Since the suit was filed, the state has completed over $4.5 million in repairs and security upgrades. The settlement requires further repairs to ensure that all the apartments at Mayor Wright are made safe and habitable. Additionally, the settlement provides for $350,000 in damages, much of which will go to rent rebates for residents. Go to our newsroom to see media coverage of the settlement featuring Hawaii Appleseed and our pro bono partner Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing.

Legislative Update

We’re at the halfway point of the legislative session, and Hawaii Appleseed is making solid progress advancing important legislation to benefit low-income people in our state. We are excited to work with fantastic partners, including Catholic Charities Hawaii, PHOCUSED, Faith Action for Community Equity, and the Hawaii Coalition for Immigration Reform. To get involved, please email lej@hiappleseed.org.

Tax Fairness (SB 555, HB 886): Hawaii levies the second highest tax burden in the country on its low-income families. These bills would help create a fairer tax system by increasing the refundable food/excise tax credit and low-income household renters credit.

Affordable Housing and Homelessness (SB 120, HB 1354, HB 766): It’s no surprise Hawaii has both the highest cost of housing and the highest rate of homelessness among the states. These bills would address this problem by appropriating money toward the Rental Housing Trust Fund, the development of micro-units, and Housing First programs for people experiencing chronic homelessness.

Increased Access to Driver’s Licenses (HB 1007): Driver’s licenses are essential for a family’s economic self-sufficiency. These bills would create a limited purpose driver’s license for residents who cannot show documentation of their lawful presence in the US, helping ensure that everyone on the road is safe and licensed.

Regulating Payday Lending (SB 737): The cycle of payday loans traps too many struggling families. We are supporting a 36% APR cap on fees charged by payday lenders.

ADU Ordinance Considered by City Council

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are a straightforward and efficient way to create more affordable housing. After highlighting the advantages of ADUs in a policy brief and advocating in the media and with policy makers for their expanded use, we are seeing results. Click here to see the bill now being considered by the Honolulu City Council.

Volunteer and CLE Opportunity

Hawaii Appleseed is starting a new project to help people who were brought to the United States as children and are undocumented. Working with community partners, we are conducting outreach and recruiting volunteers to help complete applications for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Through DACA, people can obtain work permits and temporary relief from deportation, providing greater stability and eliminating barriers to opportunity. DACA has allowed the vast majority of its participants to access better jobs, driver's licenses, and bank accounts. Hawaii has a low rate of participation in the program, and we are looking for volunteers to assist people with their applications and help them take advantage of the opportunity the DACA provides.

One or our partners in the project, Volunteer Legal Services, is providing a DACA training and Continuing Legal Education credits for volunteer attorneys. The CLE will be held Friday, March 20, 2015 in the HSBA Conference Room from 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM. Click here for more information about the CLE. If you are interested in volunteering, please email us at lej@hiappleseed.org and we will send you more information.

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