Emergency Survival Kit: Tips for Dealing with Financial Emergencies

Helping Hands Hawaii’s Emergency Assistance Program (EAP) and Pūnāwai Program provide emergency rental and utility assistance to individuals and families who fall behind in their payments due to a crisis situation. While emergency situations cannot be avoided, there are a number of ways to prepare as well as different options if you and your family are currently experiencing one.

What is an Emergency Situation?DSC_0688-crop

EAP defines an emergency situation as something that is unexpected and out of one’s control, which causes an individual or family to fall behind on rent or utility payments. Examples of an emergency situation can include a family being kicked out of their home; a sudden death or medical condition within the household that affects the household’s monthly income; or a household member being laid off from a job.

Alternatively, there are situations that may affect a household’s income that are not eligible for financial assistance. These circumstances do not qualify because they are not one-time emergencies that are out of one’s control. For instance, a car repair is not eligible because vehicle owners should expect regular maintenance expenses, and there are other means of transportation available, such as TheBus.

Also, seasonal positions or careers with limited work schedules, like those within the Department of Education that are only available when school is in session, are not eligible for assistance because employees know about and agree to the adjusted schedules when they are hired.

How do you Prepare for an Emergency Situation?

We cannot stress enough the importance of building your family’s emergency savings fund. We recommend that you save the equivalent of three-to-six months’ worth of your family’s basic necessities. This includes rent, utilities, food and any other monthly expenses that your family needs to survive.

DSC_0211Putting aside money for savings is sometimes easier said than done, especially when it is instinctive to pay your bills first. So, how do you set aside money while also keeping up with your monthly bills? One solution is to create a spending plan or budget for your family that helps you avoid overspending. Write out your monthly income and expenses, being sure to include your emergency savings fund, to see where you can make cuts or reallocate your income. Knowing where to put your money and tracking where your money goes is one of the best strategies for making sure you spend within your means.

What if you are Currently Facing a Financial Emergency and Cannot Pay for Your Rent or Utilities?

Helping Hands Hawaii offers two emergency assistance programs—one is the general Emergency Assistance Program (EAP), and the other is the Pūnāwai Program for Native Hawaiians.

EAP can be accessed through a referral application from one of our partnering agencies. If you currently work with an agency or service provider, inquire with your case worker about the program. Advise them to contact Helping Hands Hawaii at (808) 440-3800 before sending in a referral.DSC_0258-1

If you or another adult household member is Native Hawaiian, read about our Pūnāwai Program for eligibility requirements as well as information on how to apply. You may also contact (808) 440-3804 for assistance. This program operates statewide through our partnership with Catholic Charities Hawaii and Hawaiian Community Assets.

Are there other Resources that Provide Rental and Utility Assistance?

Other organizations that offer emergency financial assistance include:

Catholic Charities Hawaii
(808) 521-4357

Offers programs like the Housing Placement and Homelessness Prevention Program. This program provides assistance with first month’s rent or deposit, and case management support is available for a minimum of six months to help the family secure a home. This program provides services to families with children under the age of 18 experiencing difficulty in accessing housing with the Section 8 voucher and other low-income families with income at 185% of the Federal Poverty Guideline. Contact Catholic Charities Hawaii for more information.

The Institute for Human Services (IHS)
(808) 447-2863

Provides rental assistance if you are facing an eviction or need help with first month’s rent or deposit through the Homeless Prevention, Rapid Re-Housing Program. Contact IHS for more information on eligibility requirements.

Hawaii Community Action Plan (HCAP)
Central – 488-6834
Leeward – 696-4261
Windward – 239-5754
Kalihi-Palama – 847-0804
Leahi – 732-7755

Through Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), HCAP offers Energy Credit (EC) and Emergency Crisis Intervention (ECI). EC Applications are only processed during June. Eligible clients receive electric or gas credit in an amount of credit that may vary each year. The ECI program assists families that have received a notice of disconnection.

For both programs, eligibility requirements include being at or below 150% of the federal poverty guideline and have an active utility account. One person in the household must be receiving SNAP or SSI. Contact HCAP for more information.

Aloha United Way 2-1-1
For additional rental and utility resources, contact the Aloha United Way resource hotline by dialing 2-1-1. Representatives will complete an intake with you in order to determine your need and provide additional community resources that may be able to assist.


  1. […] Emergency Survival Kit: Tips for Dealing with Financial Emergencies, we identified the two emergency assistance programs that are available at Helping […]

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