Hawai`i State Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland has introduced measures to help families save and build their assets so they are able to have choice and control in their lives. According to Chun Oakland, for women, men and families, assets are essential to have financial security in difficult times, to create economic opportunities for oneself, and to leave a legacy for future generations.
In January 2009, Chun Oakland introduced SB 790, a bill to provide a refundable state earned income tax credit (EITC) equivalent to 20 percent of the federal earned income tax credit. The bill was deferred by the Committee on Human Services. Since 2006, she has introduced a comprehensive package of bills that encourage and widen opportunities for Hawai`i families to build their assets. These measures include: expanding individual development accounts; establishing microenterprise funding; creating a self-employment assistance program; assisting with down-payment loan assistance; and increasing support for family self-sufficiency and Section 8 voucher programs.
Over the years, Chun Oakland has been instrumental in the successful passage of the following: a grant-in-aid to establish VITA sites across the state; a study conducted by the auditor’s office to analyze the regulation of the predatory and pay day lending industry; funding for Section 8 and Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) homeownership programs to help families transition off rental assistance directly into homeownership; exempting FSS escrow accounts that help families buy homes from benefit eligibility tests; the establishment of a self-sufficiency standard by the State Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism; splitting of state tax refunds to assist taxpayers with saving and building their assets; the establishment of a State Asset Building Task Force; and funding federal earned income tax outreach and assistance. Senator Gary Hooser, Senator Mike Gabbard, Representative John Mizuno, Representative Maile Shmabukuro, Representative Karl Rhoads, and Representative Karen Awana were also a part of Hawai`i's Asset Building legislative team with Chun Oakland.
Presently, Chun Oakland is the co-chair of the State Asset Building Task Force that consists of more than 40 members from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors who are charged with developing policy recommendations on financial education for public and private sector employees and in K-12 grades in schools; the elimination of asset limits; and the establishment of universal children’s savings accounts.