Every day, 10,000 people turn 65 in America. Every 8 seconds someone turns 65. That's 4 million people per year turning 65. And because of advances in healthcare and medicine, people are living longer than ever before. People in Hawaiʻi tend to have a very long life expectancy. By the year 2020, we are looking at about 300,000 people who will be over the age of 65 here in the state.
This is potentially a great opportunity: the ability to live longer means the ability to connect with your family longer, to work longer, to learn, to contribute, to love—all these opportunities. But only if we have the right support in place to actually take care of people and to make sure they have what they need to live healthy lives.
Expand Kupuna Care and Make it Permanent: In 2017, after 22 years of advocacy work, Hawaiʻi created the Kupuna Caregivers program and seeded it with $600,000. In 2018, the Kupuna Caregivers program was approved for a second year of funding for $1.2 million, doubling the amount from last year. We hope this will cover the more than 500 family caregivers that have requested support from the Kupuna Caregivers program.
But unfortunately, this is still nowhere near enough to support the expanding workforce of family caregivers—part time laborers who take care of their loved ones for no pay, often cutting down the amount of time they have to earn a living.
There are more 52 million family caregivers in the United States: people who are providing up to 20 hours a week of care for their family members on top of full-time jobs. This is a huge number of people that are dealing with the pressures of supporting family through earning a living and also taking care of loved ones. Managing that pressure is one of the main pain-points that working families in this country, and in Hawaiʻi, are dealing with today.
At the same time, millennials are entering their 30s and having children. There's 4 million babies being born every year in the United States with barely any childcare infrastructure to support families. The result is a sandwiching effect on the millennial generation, where working age adults are being pressured from both sides by the demands of childcare and elder care with no infrastructure or support.
We tend to underpay and undervalue our caregivers—whether they are family caregivers or professional caregivers. Hawaiʻi is poised to become the first state in the country to reverse that trend through the Kupuna Caregivers program, but we must expand and protect the benefits this program provides to Hawaiʻi’s families.
It's about the value of caregiving. It is appropriate that Hawaiʻi be the first place to invest in family care infrastructure because there is a tradition in these islands of caring for our elders: it is a part of the culture and it is something that the rest of the country can and must learn from if we are to create the solutions we need to address the increasingly massive demand for elder care that we will experience in the near future. If we continue to treat our elders as disposable and invisible, we will fail that impending test. Because Hawaiʻi already embraces that concept culturally, we can create a national precedent through serious investment in this infrastructure.
Stop the Kupuna Tax: I oppose efforts to levy taxes on public pension benefits and social security. Doing so would pull the rug out from under our kupuna who have paid into these systems on the promise that the benefits would be there.