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Success Story: OHA’s Ka Wailele Program – “Relief just when families need it the most’

For Elizabeth M.*  of ‘Ewa Beach, the Ka Wailele Program was a blessing that came at just the right time. Elizabeth, her husband and their two children faced challenges like many families during covid times.

Originally from Waimanalo, Elizabeth and her family moved to ‘Ewa Beach in 2013. In 2020, Elizabeth faced furloughs in her job as program supervisor for a nonprofit organization. Figuring out how to manage on just one income was challenging, with her husband working overtime when possible, and rearranging spending and expenses as best as possible.

Elizabeth began looking for programs that could help, but found that her family’s income was at a tricky level: just enough to pay the bills, but with no buffer and nothing to spare, leaving them unqualified for assistance. However, they managed to keep the household together, especially once Elizabeth was rehired due to pandemic relief for businesses.

Then 2021 arrived, and with it, trouble. Five close family relatives dealt with tragedy in the first six months, requiring much help from the family to get things in order. Then in the summer of 2021, Kekua was diagnosed with a rare blood vessel condition that caused multiple strokes and seizures. With him out of work, the family was back to one income, now coupled with medical bills and the unknown of when—if ever—things would return to normal.

That’s when Elizabeth saw a newspaper ad about rental assistance for Native Hawaiians. Upon inquiring, she learned about the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Ka Wailele Emergency Financial Assistance Program, administered by Hawaiʻi Community Lending (HCL). HCL is a nonprofit U.S. Treasury-certified community development financial institution that specializes in providing loans to local residents with a focus on Native Hawaiians, who cannot qualify at mainstream banks and credit unions. HCL and its sister company, Hawaiian Community Assets, operate four Financial Opportunity Centers on Oʻahu, Maui, Kauaʻi and Hawaiʻi Island.

Elizabeth met the program’s simple requirements—Native Hawaiian ancestry, and impacted by pandemic-related furlough and hardship—and found HCL responsive to her need. In fact, she found the overall process to be seamless, requiring less documentation and providing more support than other programs.

She asked for assistance with the family’s monthly rent of $1,495; HCL sent a check for that amount to management. The family was then able to plan to use any household income that would have gone towards rent to use toward medical bills and expenses.

As a nonprofit service worker herself, Elizabeth says, “It was a blessing to have relief happen just when we needed it the most.”   *Rrecipient of these funds would like to remain anonymous. 

OHA’s Ka Wailele Program Success Story