In 1963, President John Kennedy’s economic advisors drew up proposals to address the problem of American poverty, which led to the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.The act included a variety of initiatives: Head Start, Job Corps, the Work-Study program for university students, Neighborhood Youth Corps and CAPs (Community Action Programs).
MEO administers more than 40 programs and provides tools to help people and change lives through five departments: MEO Business Development Center, Community Services, Early Childhood Services, Transportation Services and Youth Services.
Services for low-income seniors are at the core of MEO programs, administered through MEO Community Services. Of the more than 166,000 Maui County residents, nearly 18% are age 65 and older and 10% of those seniors are living in poverty. The poverty income level in Hawai‘i is $14,380 for a single person and $19,460 for a family of two. Studies show that a single person living in Maui County needs an annual income of approximately $32,000 to live. In response to this disparity, MEO provides assistance to low-income seniors in a variety of ways.
◊ The Senior Community Service Employment Program enrolls seniors 55 and older with little or no work experience in a paid on-the-job training program, placing them with nonprofits throughout the county. When the training is complete, seniors are placed into unsubsidized employment in a variety of fields, including landscaping, healthcare and more.
◊ Rental assistance helps low-income seniors who are at risk of becoming homeless, providing the first month’s rent and a rental subsidy for up to six months, ensuring their living situation is stable. A rental specialist meets with the senior to review finances and establish a plan for self-sufficiency when the subsidy ends.
◊ The Weatherization Assistance Program enables low-income seniors to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. Funds are used to improve the energy performance of their dwelling.
◊ The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) assists eligible low-income seniors with their heating and cooling energy costs, bill payment assistance and energy crisis assistance.
◊ The MEO Senior Red Card provides seniors age 60 older with discounts on food and merchan- dise at establishments throughout Maui County.
◊ The Senior Planning and Coordinating Council assists 54 senior citizen clubs, representing more than 1,100 seniors with organizing, recruitment and membership enrollment, advocacy, education and social activities and events.
◊ The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program provides low-income seniors with eligible fresh produce with the goal of improving their health and nutritional status. Each senior receives a book of coupons worth $50 to exchange for fresh, nutritious and unprocessed locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs and honey from an authorized farmer or farmers’ market.
◊ A local attorney provides pro bono legal services for low-income seniors in the form of simple wills or living trusts (no probate), or deeds (to change names on real property), advance care directives and other simple legal matters.
◊ Persons in Need 60Plus assists low-income individuals 60 and older, who have income at or below the 125 percent poverty level, achieve economic security through supportive services to include subsidies for hearing aids, glasses, scooters and dental work.
• The Maui Independent Living Center assists seniors with disabilities and their families to identify community resources and navigate the education and medical systems to remove barriers and empower them to be fully engaged in all aspects of life.
◊ MEO Transportation provides specialized transportation services for seniors on the islands of Maui, Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i and in Hāna. Services include senior leisure and nutrition programs, excursions, rural shopping shuttles, Adult Day Care, rides to work for low-income individuals, and to special community events and dialysis. MEO also operates the Maui Bus Paratransit program, providing rides to disabled seniors who reside within .75 miles of the fixed route.
In addition to senior services, in the last fiscal year, MEO served more than 275 children and families in its Head Start program, trained 219 individuals under its Core Four Business Planning classes, and other employment and training programs, created or saved 52 jobs, provided evidence-based prevention programming to more than 450 youth, assisted 1,615 individuals with rental and/or energy assistance and provided more than 340,000 rides to low-income individuals, seniors, disabled and youth.
MEO has been “Helping People. Changing Lives.” for 54 years and is an articulate advocate for those whose voices are often not heard. MEO works in concert with the resident, public and private sector, providing services to over 18,000 individuals and families, touching more than 54,000 lives throughout Maui County and the State of Hawai‘i annually.