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AARP Volunteers Lobby for Kupuna at the Hawai‘i Legislature

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AARP volunteers and State Director Barbara Kim Stanton take a photo in the halls of the state Capitol with Rep. Gregg Takayama and Rep. Ken Ito.

Our AARP Hawai‘i volunteers are active and visible in their red shirts as the 2018 Legislature gets underway.

We’re working to make sure that the interests of people 50+ are heard and to push for bills that will make life better for kupuna, caregivers and people of all ages.

On Monday, Advocacy Director Kerry Komatsubara briefed volunteers on the issues we will be lobbying for at the Legislature. We then visited with lawmakers on Tuesday to thank them for their efforts last year and to push for this year’s priorities before the start of the Legislature on Wednesday.

One of our top priorities this year is to work with our partners to provide second-year funding for the landmark Kupuna Caregivers program. The Legislature provided $600,000 to start-up this first-of-its-kind –in-the-nation program aimed at providing services to help caregivers stay in the workforce. We’re hoping for at least $2 million for the 2018/19 fiscal year.

We also want to increase funding for the Kupuna Care program, which provides long-term services and support to frail and vulnerable older adults. AARP Hawai‘i, the Kupuna Caucus, and other advocacy groups are seeking $4.15 million for this program, which provides services, including adult day care, transportation, attendant care, case management, chore help and meals.

To help the Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC) continue to provide services to our kupuna, we support the administration request for $1.7 million for FY 2018/19.

On a consumer front, we’re supporting a state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs proposal to eliminate the $5 fee to freeze and thaw your credit. Experts, including AARP Fraud Watch Network Ambassador Frank Abagnale, say a credit freeze is one of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft.

Credit reporting agencies can charge up to $5 in Hawaii every time you want to freeze or unfreeze your credit. When you freeze your credit, you are telling credit reporting companies -- Experian, TransUnion and Equifax – not to release your credit report unless you give permission. Unfreezing or thawing is what happens when you give permission to release your credit report, for example if you apply for a loan or a new credit card. This way you can keep track of who has access to your credit information.

The credit freeze fees can add up and we argue that the agencies, who already make money from selling your information, should not profit when you want to protect your information.

We are also pushing for a study, rather than a new law on Aging in Place (AIP) facilities. These facilities provide a place for kupuna to live and contract services ranging from housekeeping to caregiving so they can age in place.

The state Health Department wants these facilities to be licensed, like care homes and nursing homes, so that they can be inspected for safety. We agree that facilities should be safe. But we are concerned that creating new laws without adequate discussion will have unanticipated consequences and intrude on the ability of people to provide housing and care for family and friends. We are also concerned that new regulation will shut down what may be the emergence of an affordable alternative to provide long-term care. Hawaii has some of the highest long-term care costs in the nation and we believe government should be looking at how to increase the number of places for people to live as they age, as well as maintaining safety.

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