What Build Back Better means for Hawaiʻi families

Updated: November 2021

The Build Back Better Act would be life-changing for Hawaiʻi children and families.

  • Most families would pay no more than 7% of their income on child care, making it affordable at last — and the lowest-income families would not pay anything.
  • 3- and 4-year-olds would have access to free pre-K programs.
  • Families would have more money for basic expenses through the expanded Child Tax Credit.
  • Workers would have four weeks of paid family leave.

These policies are not only long-overdue — they’re popular, pragmatic, and would be completely paid for by asking the wealthiest individuals and corporations to pay their fair share in taxes.

Children’s needs are a public good, and the Build Back Better plan would finally recognize them for what they really are — and fund them appropriately. This is today’s equivalent of a New Deal for children and families. It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our society to finally put children and families first.


Making child care affordable

The Build Back Better framework will enable Hawaiʻi to provide access to child care for over 85,000 young children (ages 0-5) annually from families earning under 2.5 times the state median income (about $260,604 for a family of 4). These families would pay no more than 7% of their income on high-quality child care.

  • A family of 4 in Hawaiʻi who earn less than $82,000 would pay nothing for child care.
    • Currently, the average annual cost of a child care center for a toddler is $13,230. On average, a Hawaiʻi family with two young children spends 23% of their income on child care for one year.
  • By 2025, most families would pay no more than 7% of their income on child care, with lower earners paying less.
  • A middle-class family in Hawaiʻi would save $6,000 on child care costs annually.
  • Child care providers would be recognized for the economic value they provide and would receive sustainable, living wages.
    • The median hourly wage for child care providers in Hawaiʻi is $12. It’s time to elevate child care to a profession and ensure child care jobs are sustainable jobs. They are the jobs that make all other work possible, and should be treated as the foundation that they are. That means recognizing its economic value and paying the people who provide care.

Free Pre-K for all

The Build Back Better framework will enable Hawaiʻi to expand access to free, high-quality preschool to more than 31,844 additional 3- and 4-year-olds per year and increase the quality of preschool for children who are already enrolled.

  • All 3- and 4-year-olds could have access to free, high-quality pre-K programs.
    • Only about half of 3- and 4-year olds in Hawaiʻi are currently attending a preschool program. With the average pre-K costs of more than $8,000 a year, it’s currently out of reach for too many families.
  • Families could choose a program and setting that meets their needs, including family child care, school-based programs, or Head Start.
  • Early educators would be paid a fair, living wage.

Child Tax Credit

  • Families could continuing receiving up to $300 per child, per month, with the expanded Child Tax Credit.
    • The annual total would be $3,600/child under age 6 and $3,000/child age 6+.
  • The American Rescue Plan already temporarily increased the Child Tax Credit to this level.
    • Hawaiʻi families are predominantly using these advance payments on basic needs like food, school expenses, and essential bills.
    • Food insecurity has also dropped for Hawaiʻi families since the advance payments started.
  • This tax cut would help cut child poverty nearly in half.

Paid family leave

This is in the House version of the Build Back Better package.

  • All workers would be covered.
    • This includes employees and independent contractors, those in the public or private sectors, with employers of any size
    • Workers need to have some income in the months before they would take the leave (unemployment benefits would count as income)
  • Paid family leave could be used for:
    • A worker’s own serious health need
    • To care for a seriously ill loved one
      • This includes: parent, child, spouse, registered domestic partner, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or other person whose relationship to the worker is like family
    • To bond with a new child (for parents of any gender, including foster and adoptive parents)
    • Bereavement for the loss of a parent, child, or spouse
    • Addressing the impact of a loved one’s military deployment
  • Workers could receive benefits for up to 4 weeks.
    • The benefit amount is on a sliding scale — up to 85% for the lowest income workers.
    • The maximum benefit would be about $1,200 per week.

Learn more in this White House fact sheet.

What can you do to help?

The Build Back Better Act is close to passing in Congress. Most of Hawaiʻi’s delegation have long supported the bill: Senator Brian Schatz, Senator Mazie Hirono, and Representative Kai Kahele.

However, Representative Ed Case is still trying to delay a vote on the full package. 

Take action by contacting Rep. Case today. We’ll provide a script to email, tweet, or call him.

Click here to contact Rep. Case

You can also support this urgent advocacy work by donating to HCAN Speaks! Click here to donate now.

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