Keiki rallied at the Capitol today for children's issues

HONOLULU (KHON2) - Advocates rallied at the Capitol today to support active bills regarding children's health, safety and education in the state legislature.

Among the issues they want addressed are:

• Amending the dependent care tax credit by asking for an increase in the percentages used to calculate the benefit, and an increase in the limit of qualifying expenses. Currently a family making $25,000 or below receives a lackluster tax credit of up to $600 for one child, while the average cost of childcare for a single child in Hawaii is $13,000.
• Urging the Department of Human Services to increase the reimbursement rate for home childcare facilities and to ease the eligibility criteria for receiving child care subsidies.
• Allocating funding for the operating budget of the Department of Education’s Executive Office on Early Learning that supports the classroom expansion desperately needed so that more of Hawaiiʻs keiki have access to high-quality and affordable early learning.
• Allocating $4 million to maintain and continue the current federally funded 18 existing charter school prekindergarten classrooms across the state serving approximately 360 children, including 7 Native Hawaiian immersion and culture-based prekindergarten charter school.
• Extending the deadline for the Legislative Reference Bureau to submit the sunrise analysis on implementing a paid family leave program in Hawaii. Currently, 0% of Hawaii’s workers have guaranteed paid family leave. In a state where family and aloha are the foundation of our society, it is crucial to allot time to care for family or loved ones without the threat of losing oneʻs income or job.

Advocates say legislators need to put keiki first. 

"I think we should lead by example. I don't think we should be trailing behind. I think we should be the pioneers, the progressive pioneers across the state. That's what I believe because it's part of our identity and who we are," said Dean Wong, Executive Director of Imua Family Sservices.

Advocates are also fighting for a paid family leave program to help new parents care for newborn children.