Report: Low-income Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders among those most negatively impacted by the pandemic

ALICE Study
Image provided by Aloha United Way

Low-income American Indian or Native Alaskan, Hawaiian and Pacific Islander households were among those who suffered the most negative economic impacts brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent national study found. 

Bearing the brunt: According to the Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) analysis of National COVID Surveys, members of American Indian, Alaskan Native, Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AIAN/H/PI) communities, along with Black and Hispanic demographics, suffered the highest percentage of job loss and health issues among all reporting ethnic groups in the United States.

  • Low-income AIAN/Hawaiian/Pacific Islander households reported job loss across 43% of the population, as compared to just under a third of both white and Asian respondents.
  • AIAN/Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders were also most likely to report experiencing significant health issues across the board at 73% among low-income households and 52% above the ALICE threshold. 
  • The findings were based on surveys conducted by the U.S. Census, Federal Reserve Board, University of Southern California and United For ALICE from March 2020 to May 2021. 
  • The studies relied on  ALICE methodology and metrics measuring financial hardship against the ALICE Threshold, which “represents the minimum income level necessary for survival for a household” including those households just above the Federal Poverty Line
  • According to the report, those households most likely to struggle financially, face disruptions in employment, barriers to work and additional concerns including childcare, food insecurity, and mental and physical health challenges, often requiring multiple sources of income to make ends meet.

Responding to people’s needs: The nonprofit organization Aloha United Way (AUW), who conducted the study, noted in a press release that the staggering statistic highlighted the Hawaiian people’s pandemic vulnerabilities, particularly when coupled with their lack of healthcare coverage. 

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  • To address these vulnerabilities, the organization established the ALICE Fund for the affected ethnic groups, reported Maui Now.
  • The fund aims to bring “transformative initiatives and systemic change” to the ethnic Hawaiian families below the ALICE Threshold.
  • “The data overwhelmingly supports that the number of households categorized as ALICE has increased over the last 18 months,” said AUW Vice President of Community Impact Lisa Kimura. “Since this is the same population that never recovered from the Great Recession, it is evident that the COVID-19 Pandemic has the potential to derail the health, safety and livelihood for years to come if work isnʻt done to bring about systemic change.”
  • She pointed out that while their group has focused on “funding programs and services” for the marginalized communities even before COVID-19, the challenges that have arisen due to the pandemic have pushed them to focus more on “engaging partners to elevate ALICE households into stability.”
  • The organization is now conducting planning sessions with community stakeholders to prepare for their next steps in the years to follow.

Featured Image via Aloha United Way

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