Invest In Human Infrastructure, Not Just Roads And Bridges - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Authors

Deborah Zysman

Deborah Zysman is the executive director of Hawaii Children’s Action Network Speaks!

Gavin Thornton

Gavin Thornton is the executive director of Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice.


All families and keiki deserve the opportunity to thrive. But that opportunity is out of reach for far too many in our community.

When Hawaii’s U.S. representatives return to Washington, D.C., in the coming days, they have the opportunity to support historic investments in our people and the infrastructure that supports us. As advocates for Hawaii’s low-income and working-class families, we urge them to take this momentous opportunity to invest in paid leave, child care, housing, and other social infrastructure that we desperately need.

As our nation works to rebuild from the global pandemic, we must now confront the issues that have disproportionately affected workers and families during this unprecedented time. We can take this opportunity to “build back better” by investing in supports that are essential to economic recovery.

Without these investments, our recovery will fall short, leaving behind many women, low-wage families, and institutionally marginalized communities. We are stronger together, and if we continue to leave more and more people behind, our state, country, and economy will collapse.

Hawaii Congressman Ed Case. The U.S. House is expected to take up critical votes this week. Screenshot

Fortunately, we have an opportunity to rebuild our economy and increase equity if members of Congress include robust investments in essential needs in the reconciliation package.

Next week, Rep. Ed Case and Rep. Kai Kahele will return to Washington to vote on the 2022 Budget Resolution. The Budget Resolution will pave the way for Congress to provide critical support for families burdened without access to paid family and medical leave, affordable child care, or housing.

We have an opportunity to rebuild our economy and increase equity.

The high cost of these basic expenses — like housing, child care, health care, and education — is strangling working families. Many of these families fall into the “ALICE” category as defined by Aloha United Way, or “Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed.”

Paid leave and affordable child care are not available to most workers and families. Only 21% of workers have access to paid family leave through their employers. In Hawaii, only 44% of workers have access to even unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Child care costs are more than tuition at the University of Hawaii. Current federal child care funding only reaches one in seven eligible children.

The proposal in the federal budget resolution would provide early care and learning opportunities to more than 29,000 children in Hawaii over a 10-year period — that’s 16 times more children than are currently served.

Hawaii Congressman Kai Kahele. Nick Grube/Civil Beat/2020

To change the status quo, Congress must make significant and intentional investments that center around the workers and families who fuel our economy. If we don’t get it right this time, it will be almost impossible to fully recover and press the proper reset button that our country desperately needs.

Reps. Case and Kahele have the opportunity to build back a more resilient and equitable economy by ensuring that there is a robust investment in accessible paid leave, child care, and housing.

For our nation and economy to thrive, we must create systems and policies that place equity and the needs of working people in the forefront, providing opportunities for all families to prosper.

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About the Authors

Deborah Zysman

Deborah Zysman is the executive director of Hawaii Children’s Action Network Speaks!

Gavin Thornton

Gavin Thornton is the executive director of Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice.


Latest Comments (0)

I just wish this commentary had gone a bit further - I keep asking myself - where are those ‘leaders’ that could pass the ‘GI Bill’ again? - sadly if this type of legislation were ever to be voted on again - I doubt it would pass.  Democrats for Corporations need to do some soul searching - their fealty is showing very starkly now during this Pandemic.  Our society and very existence is on the drawing board of Congress - where are the artists?  All dead?

Augustus · 1 month ago

I don’t understand why a call for more funding for housing - particularly a call for federal funding - doesn’t lead with and first demand more support for DHHL. The HHCA isn’t even mentioned.  

Likeke · 1 month ago

These Democrats have redefined infrastructure. In their world, everything they want to spend money on is now defined is infrastructure.

davewil3 · 1 month ago

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