Monday, October 11, 1999

Stopping welfare
benefits pays off

Bullet The issue: Nearly three-quarters of the families whose welfare benefits were cut off last month have been restored to the rolls.

Bullet Our view: Getting tough has paid off by prompting the beneficiaries to meet work requirements.

SOMETIMES getting tough can pay off. That seems to be true in the case of families who were dropped from the welfare rolls because they failed to find jobs or meet other requirements -- participate in a training program or do volunteer work.

Last month the Department of Human Services cut off cash benefits to 1,355 households because their able-bodied members failed to meet the requirements. Now officials report that 999 -- nearly three-quarters -- have been restored to the rolls because they have complied with them.

To keep benefits, recipients need to be employed for at least 32 hours a month, of which 12 can be in the state training program First to Work. Those waiting to get into the program who are not employed need to meet an activity requirement of at least four hours a week, which may include volunteer work, schooling or job training.

The requirements apply to families with able-bodied adults who have been on the rolls for more than two years. Many of those affected apparently took lightly the warnings of an impending cutoff of benefits. When it happened and they got over their shock, they did something about it.

However, the lesson has to be repeated. Another 265 families were dropped this month and will have to meet the requirements in order to have their benefits restored.

Susan Chandler, state director of human services, believes this will be a continual educational process for each monthly group of welfare families. She commented, "We were hoping that this (compliance with requirements) would happen. We believed the work requirement wasn't so strict that people would not comply." But many did nothing until the ax fell.

Chandler pointed out that the work requirement comes from the federal government. "After five years (on welfare)," she warned, "there will be no benefits forever. Some people don't believe this and think the state will pick it up, but it won't happen."

The state requirements are not onerous but they do force people to make some effort to work or become employable. Finding jobs in a weak economy can be difficult, especially for the unskilled, as are many people on welfare.

But they must understand that the state will no longer support for an indefinite period people who refuse to try to help themselves. Now many of them have gotten the message -- and are trying to change their ways.

Oahu ferry service
could fill a niche

Bullet The issue: A ferry service between Kalaeloa Barbers Point and Aloha Tower is scheduled to begin next Monday.

Bullet Our view: Ferries could be a valuable part of the transportation system here.

IT'S been tried before -- and flopped -- but the promoters of a new ferry service for Leeward Oahu commuters think this time will be different. They have a 95-foot hydrofoil that will start service between Aloha Tower and Kalaeloa Barbers Point Harbor next Monday.

A previous ferry service by catamaran ended in 1993 after operating for four months and drawing negligible numbers of patrons. An earlier attempt at interisland ferry service also failed.

For the first month, rides on the WikiWiki Ferry will be free while officials decide how much to charge. The ferry will operate Monday through Friday, making two trips in the morning and two in the afternoon.

It's a one-year demonstration project that state officials hope will attract enough commuters to make ferry service viable for Oahu, as it is in many other places. State Transportation Director Kazu Hayashida acknowledges, "We know trying something new is always hard," but hopes that motorists will try the ferry and see if it improves their commute.

The ferry craft, named Foilcat, was built in Norway in 1992 and was in ferry service in Denmark and Indonesia before its purchase two years ago by Pacific Marine and Supply Co. It has spent more than $2.5 million to bring the craft in compliance with U.S. Coast Guard requirements and to prepare it for service in Hawaii.

The hydrofoil has a maximum speed of 50 knots, but will probably do 30 to 35 knots on the Barbers Point-Aloha Tower run, which is expected to take 30 minutes.

The passenger area features a carpeted, air-conditioned cabin with large windows. Cushioned seats are arranged three in a row along the sides, with overhead bins and fold-down trays. Booth-style seats occupy the middle.

Nobody expects the ferry to end the need for land-based solutions to traffic congestion, but it could fill a niche in the overall system. It's important to explore all possibilities, and this is one with considerable potential.

THE growth of Kapolei in recent years provides a larger market than existed when the previous attempt to establish a ferry service was made.

The Wikiwiki Ferry should appeal to people willing to trade a few minutes' longer commute for a relaxing, scenic ride -- a pleasurable experience instead of a dreaded one.

If it succeeds, it will take part of the burden off the highways in the morning and afternoon rush hours. That part may not be very big, but every bit helps.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin