Dear Hawaii Legislator,
Working families need relief. As you know, when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, over 250,000 workers across Hawaii lost their jobs - many of them in the service sector industry. For some workers, it was their first time ever laid-off and their first time ever collecting unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. And for many workers, a future of financial uncertainty loomed. Statewide, the unemployment rate eclipsed 20 percent and for some counties in Hawaii the unemployment rate surpassed an unimaginable 30 percent rate - shattering previous records from the Great Depression. Mortgage and rent payments that were already difficult to pay suddenly became impossible to pay, debt racked up and checking and savings accounts were drained. Hawaii's high cost of living became even more challenging for tens of thousands of working families. Recognizing and understanding the financial hurdles working families across Hawaii face because of the pandemic and Hawaii's high cost of living, we are seeking legislation that we believe will immediately help workers and their families.
Our first priority (H.B. 26 & S.B. 614) will help the hundreds of thousands of workers who have collected UI benefits this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of these workers were already struggling financially and the pandemic only exacerbated the situation. Most have drained their checking and savings accounts, and most are living paycheck to paycheck. And unfortunately, many are still unemployed today. We are asking for a tax forgiveness or tax holiday for workers who have collected UI during the pandemic defined as March 1- December 31, 2020. For some workers, the state income tax payments on the UI they collected could exceed well over $2,000 or $3,000 and many simply do not have the means to pay. This will help uplift many workers who are struggling to.J)lake_ends meet and allow them to stay in their homes and keep their families together.
Our second priority (H.B. 27 & S.B. 608) is to exempt the General Excise Tax (GET) from groceries and over-the-counter medicine - a regressive tax that disproportionately impacts working-class families. This will immediately help many working families who struggle to purchase groceries and provide a little extra financial relief. The average working family spends nearly $10,000-$12,000 a year on groceries in Hawaii and eliminating the GET on groceries will save working families $500 or more a year. Thirty-two states plus the District of Columbia exempt most groceries from their sales tax and only seven states tax groceries at their regular sales tax rate (Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, and South Dakota). Keep in mind, if this legislation passes working families will have an additional $500 or more a year to spend elsewhere in the economy which could help our many small businesses and allow the state to continue to collect GET on other taxable goods purchased by the extra disposable income.
We hope you will consider these proposals - working families in Hawaii need relief.
Donna Domingo, President ILWU Local142
Wayne Kaululaau, President Teamsters Local 996
Tui Scanlan, President IATSE Local 665
Patrick K. Leo, President UFCW Local 480
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Labor unions push lawmakers to drop GET on groceries
KHON: … Hawaii Teamsters, ILWU and two other labor unions are working with lawmakers who introduced the proposal. They admit it’s a hard sell considering the state is already dealing with a massive budget deficit, but argue that the money saved by the families will go back into the economy, and that many other states are already doing this.
The unions say the state should get rid of the general excise tax on groceries and over the counter drugs. Like in many other states, the tax would still be added on for cooked foods and at restaurants. Unions say that the four percent discount can go a long way and save each family more than $500 a year.
“The money saved by these families not having to pay for the GET will actually go back into the economy. Whatever they save they can start spending on other purchased goods,” said Wayne Kaululaau, Hawaii Teamsters President.
It’s actually one of two proposals submitted to the legislature. The other would allow those who received unemployment benefits to not have to pay income taxes on them.
“We seem to be stuck in neutral with ideas and our revenue generating and the cost of living. I think somebody needs to make a bold step in lead us in a different direction,” said Kaululaau….
read … Labor unions push lawmakers to drop GET on groceries