HONOLULU, Hawai‘i — In the midst of concern over COVID-19, we should remember that Hawai‘i has repeatedly dealt with economic setbacks and successfully stimulated recovery over the past century. We need to focus on policy that directs government to invest in programs that will address near-term financial shocks and make Hawai‘i a better place in the long-run.
“While we recognize that the constantly changing COVID-19 situation is an unprecedented time filled with uncertainty for our communities and way of life, right now, we should resist ill-advised calls for budget cuts,” said Beth Giesting, Director of the Hawai‘i Budget & Policy Center (HBPC). “In fact, experience shows us that when private sector businesses falter, government must take action to stimulate the economy. This can happen only when we ensure that families have enough money to spend and keep it circulating throughout the economy.”
Since this is a public health issue, not just an economic one, it’s especially important to ensure that workers can afford to stay home and that our government systems support social distancing and COVID-19 testing and treatment over the course of the next several months. HBPC is releasing four advisories on policy and funding directions the federal, state and counties should take now:
Hawai‘i: Strengthening Economic Policies is an overview summarizing both key strategies to help people and the economy, and cautions about budget-cutting decisions.
Lessons and Resources: A Summary of Federal Action that Ended the Great Recession lists the tax reduction and spending actions taken by the federal government to stimulate the economy. It also shows how economists rated those actions in terms of “bang for the buck.”
Strengthen the Safety Net: Relieve Families, Stimulate the Economy identifies top strategies to help low-income residents make ends meet if wages are cut and children are out of school. It addresses food security programs (SNAP, meals at school, and food banks), refundable tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, expanding Med-QUEST eligibility to ensure that health coverage isn’t an obstacle to testing and treatment, and using Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) reserves to help more low-income families now.
Infrastructure Investment: Improve Hawai‘i’s Future, Stimulate the Economy reminds policymakers that putting money into capital projects puts people to work. Hawai‘i has a long list of public works projects—affordable housing, water and wastewater facilities, transportation, and shoreline improvements, to name a few—and there isn’t a better time for low-interest borrowing and affordable contracts.
HBPC is acutely aware that this health crisis disproportionately affects some communities more than others. We urge our policymakers to take effective action that protects and supports Hawai’i’s economy, and more importantly, its people.
More information and recommendations are available in HBPC’s report, “Recession in Review: Looking back at the Great Recession, 2007-09.”