By Sonia Isotov
In the scramble to make ends meet on budgets without wiggle room, consumers like Mapuana Hanapi are increasingly turning to an often overlooked emergency loan program at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
Mapuana Hanapi, 30, who teaches Hawaiian studies to fourth graders on Moloka`ì, tapped the program on Oct. 21 for $3,000 after her mother and aunts were turned down by other lending sources for a loan to cover funeral expenses for her uncle on Maui. “We are all relieved that we can now give him a proper send off,” Hanapi said in the written statement from OHA. “We’re really glad OHA was able to help out.”
OHA’s Consumer Micro-Loan Program makes up to $7,500 in low-interest loans available to Native Hawaiian consumers experiencing temporary financial hardships due to unforeseen circumstances, or a yearning to learn critical new skills that could bolster their careers.
Last year, the program approved 42 loan applications for $224,748, up from 37 loan applications for $206,989 a year earlier. Already, the program is on pace to approve 68 applications in the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2012.
Rene Irvine, a 48-year-old Hilo resident, is one of 17 Native Hawaiian borrowers with moderate-to-good credit scores who since July have been approved for more than $76,000 to pay for emergency auto repairs, career training, home repairs and funeral expenses.
“I cried when OHA approved my application for a $7,500 loan to make my house handicap accessible for my 76-year-old mother,” said Irvine in a written statement released by OHA today. Irvine works in sales at a resort in Waikoloa on the Big Island. “My mother will now have the flexibility to move around the house safely. This gives me peace of mind.”
For more information about the program, call (808) 594-1835 or visit www.oha.org/cmlp.