My Turn: Minimum wage increase needed

The state Legislature has the opportunity to be heroes, but currently it should be ashamed of its cowardly act in representing its population. We need $15 per hour minimum wage in 2021. Twelve dollars per hour as proposed in Senate Bill 676 is not good enough, let alone the current $10.10 per hour.

Let me explain in detail:

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There are on average 2,087 hours per year, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. This is based on the basic number of hours full-time employees work: at 40 hours a week for 52 weeks, that’s 2,080. Thus, this means someone currently at $10.10 per hour makes $21,078.70 per year. The Legislature’s proposed continued starvation wage of $12 per hour earns $25,044 per year, and $15 per hour earns $31,305 per year.

This is income before tax.

According to smartasset.com’s Hawaii income tax calculator, for a single (person), (with) no dependent earning $10.10 per hour this is the taxes:

Federal at 4.12% =$868

FICA at 7.65% = $1,612

State at 4.31% = $908

Total income tax at 16.08%= $3,389

Annual total take-home pay= $17,689

According to rentdata.org, the 2020 Hawaii average for a one bedroom apartment was $1,406 per month or $16,872 per year.

At the current minimum wage, an individual with no dependent after tax and rent is at $817 for the year. Some $817 for the year after only paying income tax and rent — $817 for the year.

This is not including electricity, water, sewage internet, food, clothes, car payment, gasoline. This is what drives homelessness in Hawaii. Yes, there is not enough affordable housing (which is another major issue) but people cant even afford the housing if it’s available or not.

This is a disaster bigger then Hurricane Iniki; more disastrous than the 2018 Puna lava flow.

This can be easily fixed by you, the Legislature. You have the opportunity to be a hero for your communities and Hawaii. Address poverty and homelessness. Do the right thing. Do what we elected you for; represent your people with facts, dignity and respect.

This increase will have an immediate impact on reducing homelessness when people who work full-time can afford basic housing.

This is currently the most important issue in Hawaii: Even during the global pandemic and subsequent economic depression; along with massive human-induced climate change and energy crisis, which our state is one the most vulnerable to in the U.S. and the world.

Twenty-six other states have already approved minimum wage increases for this year (2021). Hawaii has the highest cost of living in the U.S., yet 20 other states already have a higher minimum wage than Hawaii.

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This is unacceptable, and it is your job to make Hawaii leaders in the U.S. in equality and justice for all.

Sol Auerbach is a resident of Holualoa.