Senate Advances Bill Package, Hawai‘i Funding Needs IncludedDecember 22, 2019, 6:30 AM HST (Updated December 21, 2019, 9:10 PM)
The US Senate advanced an eight-bill appropriations package that includes important priorities for Hawai‘i secured by Sen. Mazie K. Hirono.
The legislation, which funds and renews a range of domestic and international programs from the national Flood Insurance Program to energy production tax credits and health care programs, passed the Senate in 73-21 vote.
“From funding to support our public lands, to programs that combat hunger and homelessness, this bill provides necessary federal resources to support important programs in Hawaii and the country,” Hirono said. “This bill also rejects the President’s proposed draconian cuts to federal education, housing, health care, and clean energy programs that Hawai‘i residents depend on every year.”
The bill invests in critical education, health care, transportation and environmental programs that benefit Hawai‘i. Specific items that Hirono championed include:
$5 million in funding for the Micro-Grants for Food Security Program. Hirono helped to create this program in the 2018 Farm Bill, which directs funds to nonprofit organizations in Hawai‘i, Alaska and outlying areas to increase the quality and quantity of locally grown food in food insecure communities.
$7.5 million in Land and Water Conservation Funding to protect critical natural, historic and cultural resources in Hawai‘i at Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail and HaloaAina on Hawai‘i Island.
Funds National and Regional Climate Adaption Science Centers at $38.335 million. Hirono led advocacy efforts in the Senate to reject the administration’s proposed cuts to the Centers, which help natural and cultural resource managers identify and assess climate-related vulnerabilities. The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa hosts the Pacific Islands Regional Climate Adaptation Science Center.
Funds critical programs to support the Native Hawaiian community including $36.897 million for the Native Hawaiian Education, $18.3 million for the Strengthening Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institution Program, $3.194 million for Education Grants for Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions, and $19 million for the Native Hawaiian Health Care Program.
$3.8 million for the Interagency Council on Homelessness, an independent agency tasked with coordinating the federal response to addressing homelessness. Increases funding for programs that combat veteran homelessness including $250 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Grant and Per-Diem program, which funds support service-intensive transitional housing, $380 million for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, and $408.3 million for the U.S. Department of Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program.
$16.7 million for the East West Center, a research organization established by Congress at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
Increase in the Pell Grant Maximum Award to $6,195 per academic year. Hirono is a leading advocate for expanding and increasing funds to the federal Pell Grant program, which provide need-based grants to undergraduate students.
A summary of the full appropriations package can be found here.