US payment won’t cover single month of Hawaii living cost

HONOLULU — The federal coronavirus relief funds for Hawaii residents are not expected to cover a single month of expenses because of the state’s high cost of living, an economic analysis found.

The one-time, $1,200 payments from the government’s coronavirus rescue package are likely to be less effective in Hawaii because the average cost of living is 20% higher than the national average, Hawaii Public Radio reported Monday.

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The payments are part of a $2.2 trillion economic rescue package rolled out by the federal government in an attempt to counter the devastating impacts of the pandemic.

Beth Giesting, director of the nonpartisan Hawaii Budget and Policy Center, said that when accounting for the local cost of living, the $1,200 payment is more like $960 elsewhere in the U.S.

“In no case does it cover a full month’s expenses,” Giesting said.

How far the money goes depends on location. On Oahu, the most expensive island, $1,200 does not cover half the average monthly expenses for a single person, Giesting said.

“A one-bedroom apartment costs an average of $1,500 per month,” Giesting said. “Food is budgeted for a single adult at $365 per month, and then you have all of the other things like transportation, healthcare, and miscellaneous taxes. So the total for that household is $3,000 per month.”

The relief payments are most effective for households with two eligible adults and no children, she said.

A couple in that category would receive $2,400, which accounts for about 63% of average monthly living expenses.

Relief payments are expected to go the farthest on Hawaii Island, the state’s lowest cost region.

Big Island couples with no children benefit most from relief funds, which would likely cover an average 73% of monthly expenses, Giesting said.

The impact on households with children is more difficult to calculate. Each household is expected to receive an extra $500 per child, but those households have need more home space and have additional expenses such as childcare.

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“For that household in Honolulu, housing costs around $2,000 per month. They have childcare expenses estimated to be $1,200 per month,” Giesting said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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