[UPDATE 9/23/2015: The Punawai Program is an active, OHA-funded program administered on O’ahu by Helping Hands Hawai’i. Due to the volume of calls the program receives and that there is no dedicated staff person to answer the calls (staff who conduct call-backs for phone screens are the same staff who conduct in-person intakes), the program phone line is not answered live. Participants must leave a message and will receive a call back within 72 hours. ]
Native Hawaiian families that have been pushed to their financial edge have a new place to turn for help paying their bills.
The Pūnāwai Program will help eligible families pay rent, car notes, water bills and other expenses as part of a broader effort over the next two years to ensure their financial survival.
The community-based group won a two-year $1.2 million contract from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to provide emergency financial assistance to Native Hawaiian-families that are struggling to pay bills on time and keep debts at a manageable level.
Last year, $1,147 was the average amount of financial aid received by the 200-plus Hawaiian families that sought help for similar services under the OHA contract that expired July 31.
OHA has awarded the new contract to the Pūnāwai Program, which is a collaboration among three non-profit organizations: Helping Hands Hawaii; Catholic Charities of Hawaii; and Hawaiian Community Assets.
Among the specific services provided by the group will be help paying security deposits on rent, covering funeral expenses, and keeping up with electricity bills. Other services include financial assistance with asset-building strategies, such as Individual Development Accounts, which are special savings accounts designed to help low-income people invest in their future.
“We look forward to this collaboration exceeding our most optimistic expectations,” said OHA Chief Executive Officer (Ka Pouhana) Kamanaʻopono Crabbe. “Our investment is ultimately in helping Native Hawaiian families become more financially viable.”
For more information, call:
• (808) 440-3804 – O’ahu (also, Helping Hands Hawaii, at 536-7234)
• (808) 961-7051- Hawai’i Island
• (808) 632-6950 – Kaua’i
• (808) 872-6251- Maui ( as well as Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi)
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