Senate Passes $19.1B Supplemental Disaster Relief Bill
Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i) successfully secured a number of provisions in the Bipartisan Disaster Supplemental Bill to assist individuals and communities in Hawai‘i impacted by natural disasters in 2018. The $19.1 billion measure passed the Senate on an 85-8 vote.
“Last year’s natural disasters seriously impacted thousands of Hawai‘i residents and they have been waiting too long to receive federal assistance as they recover,” Sen.Hirono said. “This legislation will provide much needed resources for homeowners impacted by flooding on Kaua‘i, communities impacted by volcanic activity on the Big Island, and citizens living in U.S. Territories. I will continue working to ensure our communities receive the assistance they deserve by calling on my colleagues to take this legislation up immediately in the House of Representatives and send it to the president’s desk.”
Hawai‘i priorities Sen. Hirono fought to include in the Senate Disaster Supplemental Bill:
- Allowing Hawai‘i farmers and producers impacted by volcanic activity and flooding to participate in the USDA’s Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP). This provision provides over $3 billion in funding to provide assistance beyond what is currently provided by insurance programs to those impacted by recent disasters and includes language directing the USDA Secretary to be flexible in helping producers whose land was impacted by volcanic activity to bring replacement land into production.
- Providing resources to rebuild the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) which was damaged beyond repair during the Kīlauea eruption. This provision provides $98.5 million to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that will support both the immediate needs of HVO personnel operating in temporary space following their displacement from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park as well as construction for a new HVO facility.
- Providing resources to rebuild communities affected by natural disasters. This provision provides $2.43 billion for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program to support communities and neighborhoods rebuilding after natural disasters. The provision expands on last year’s $1.68 billion investment in the CDBG-DR program, which included $67 million for Hawai‘i natural disasters. Another provision provides $600 million for the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Assistance Programs, through which Hawai‘i has already received nearly $200,000 to rebuild infrastructure in communities recovering from disasters.
- Funding repairs to Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge which was damaged during spring 2018 flooding events. The provision provides over $82 million to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in construction related to 2018 disasters, including the flooding event on Kaua‘i.
In addition to Hawai‘i priorities, the disaster recovery bill provides much needed resources to territories impacted by recent disasters, including an additional $36 million in Medicaid funding for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and $18 million for disaster nutrition assistance for American Samoa. The bill also provides $605 million in disaster nutrition assistance and $304 million in Community Development Block Grant funding to Puerto Rico, and directs the administration to disburse previously appropriated disaster aid within 90 days.