Reps. Vote to Pass Critical Disaster Relief Funding for Hawai‘i
Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Ed Case voted on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, to pass comprehensive, bipartisan disaster relief and recovery assistance for Hawai‘i, California, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa and other Americans affected by recent hurricanes, typhoons, wildfires, earthquakes, volcanoes, and other natural disasters. The legislation passed by a vote of 237-187.
In 2018, heavy rains fell on Kaua‘i and O‘ahu in April, with nearly 50 inches falling in a 24-hour period, resulting in damage to more than 760 homes. In May, volcanic eruptions began on Hawai‘i Island, covering over 6,000 acres of land, destroying more than 700 homes, and burying or isolating roughly 1,600 acres of farms in the Puna area. Finally, in late August, Tropical Storm Lane caused further damage with flooding and wildfires on Maui and O‘ahu, eroding beaches, damaging 152 homes, and resulting in more than $35 million in damages.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said:
“2018 was a tough year for so many Americans. We had families and farmers and people all across California whose homes were destroyed, people who lost their lives, lost their farms, lost their businesses. In other parts of the country, there were storms and hurricanes that similarly devastated other communities. My home state of Hawai‘i was one of them.
“We were battered by natural disasters of all types last year on nearly all of our islands—from major flooding and landslides on Kaua‘i and O‘ahu in April, an erupting volcano throughout May and June, and flooding and wildfires on multiple islands in August. But time and again, in Hawai‘i and across the country, people have proved their resilience and strength and living aloha, taking care of each other even when they have lost everything.
“Today we’re voting to pass funding that is sorely-needed by communities like mine, where people are still struggling to get back on their feet with limited resources. This bill provides funding for things like crop insurance, reconstructing facilities, water infrastructure projects, crisis counseling, rebuilding houses and small businesses, and more. I urge my colleagues to pass this necessary funding bill and provide a helping hand to those whose lives will never be the same because of these disasters.”
“The Neighbor Islands bore the brunt of the damage from natural disasters of the past year,” said Congressman Case. “O‘ahu was also severely affected and the aftermath was felt throughout the state including disruption of our tourism and agriculture industries and beyond. These sorely needed funds will assist those affected to recover and carry on with their lives.”
Background: H.R. 268 would provide $12.9 billion in total emergency spending. It includes $2.96 billion for infrastructure and economic and community development, $2.54 billion for resiliency funding to mitigate damage from future disasters that are accelerating in number due to climate change, $1.86 billion in assistance to farmers and rural communities, $1.46 billion for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to repair and reconstruct damaged facilities, $720 million to repay non-fire accounts for wildland fire activities, $662 million for nutrition and Medicaid assistance to Puerto Rico, Northern Marianas, Guam, and American Samoa, and $555 million for social services, mental health, education and dislocated worker activities.
Specific provisions that benefit Hawai‘i include:
- $1.1 billion for expenses related to CY 2018 loss of crops, including Hawai‘i’s specialty crops like coffee, macadamia nuts, papayas, bananas, mangoes, avocados, and flowers, from volcanic activities
$295.57 million for NOAA operations, research, repair, grants, construction, and more
- $15 million for the Legal Services Corporation to help those impacted by natural disasters including from volcanic activities
- $78 million for National Park Service construction of facilities, such as Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, related to natural disasters including from volcanic activities
- $98.5 million for USGS, of which $72.3 million is specifically for the replacement of equipment and facilities for damages incurred from volcanic activities
- $849.4 million for EPA for capitalization grants to state revolving loan funds supporting water infrastructure projects, which can be used for homestead cesspool to septic tank conversion
- $165 million for “education recovery” for expenses related to natural disasters including Super Typhoon Yutu and volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in Hawai‘i
- $30 million for behavioral health and crisis counseling, $250 million for social services block grant and health services, costs of fixing facilities, and child care centers, and $60 million for Head Start
- $1.65 billion, including $7.2 million for Hawai‘i Island and $52 million for Kaua‘i, for Federal Highways Administration Emergency Relief Program
- $1.16 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program to rebuild housing, businesses, and public infrastructure affected by major natural disasters