Covid’s reach into all sectors of the state has highlighted a big weakness in the safety net.

As we look forward to a new year filled with exciting opportunities, it is also important to take stock of the opportunities that were missed and how we can learn from them.

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Omicron’s surge has raised questions about whether Covid’s latest wave will be its last or just part of the “new normal.” Activities like spending time with family and enjoying the simple pleasures of walking on the beach or sharing a meal take on greater significance.

Covid-19 has left an indelible mark in Hawaii. More than 200,000 people have contracted coronavirus and, sadly, more than 1,200 have succumbed to the virus. It has impacted families across the islands and all businesses in immeasurable ways, from both a workforce and economic perspective.

Covid’s reach into all sectors of the state has also highlighted a tremendous weakness in our safety net, specifically as it relates to our keiki and ohana — in particular a lack of quality, affordable child care and inadequate resources to address both an increase in family violence and mental health needs.

To address this shortcoming, business leaders have joined forces with education, family support, philanthropic and mental health leaders to launch Commit to Keiki. This effort, directed at the gubernatorial campaigns now underway, seeks to underscore the importance of greater investments in early learning, child care, family violence prevention and mental health.

Medical technicians prepare COVID-19 tests, for sending to labs, at the Blaisdell drive-through testing site in Honolulu, Monday, December 27, 2021. (Ronen Zilberman photo Civil Beat)
Covid-19 exposed the fact that Hawaii lacks adequate investment in Hawaii’s families. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2021

The public education campaign focuses on gubernatorial candidates and the importance of making early learning and child care more accessible, affordable and of higher quality. At the same time, Commit to Keiki will underscore the importance of investing in family violence prevention and mental health.

Covid exposed the fact that the lack of adequate investment in Hawaii’s keiki and ohana is not sustainable and hurts our children and families now and in the long-term. As parents get back to work, our keiki deserve priority attention, better education, greater funding and improved services to help them succeed.

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