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Big Island finalist for $100M Grant to Support Local Farmers

December 14, 2021, 6:30 AM HST
* Updated December 13, 2:46 PM
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U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz announced that the Hawai‘i Island Coalition was named a finalist for the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge and will receive $500,000 to further develop a proposal for between $25 million and $100 million in potential future grant funding. If successful, the coalition would use the funds to create jobs, train workers, and expand the market reach of Hawai‘i Island’s farmers.

“This announcement is great news for the Big Island and the state,” said Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat and a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in a press release Monday, Dec. 13. “Investing in agriculture will create jobs, support families, and grow our local economy. I’ll do everything I can to get this application over the finish line and make sure Hawai‘i secures this federal funding.”

The Hawai‘i Island Coalition, led by Hawai‘i County, seeks to create a robust agricultural economy that corrects past systemic barriers to growth that are unique to islands, while also helping respond to economic downturns due to the pandemic and natural disasters. The coalition aims to divert 20% of Hawai‘i’s food import market to local producers, creating thousands of new jobs and stimulating the specialty export market. If successful in securing the larger grant, the coalition would build an industrial park, train workers, and increase food processing and production capacity.

The Economic Development Administration launched the Build Back Better Regional Challenge with funds provided by the American Rescue Plan, which Congress passed – and Schatz supported – earlier this year. The challenge leverages $1 billion to boost economic recovery from the pandemic and rebuild American communities, with 30 winners receiving grants worth between $25 million and $100 million to develop local initiatives. The Hawai‘i Island Coalition is one of 60 finalists selected from 529 applications.

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