Disaster Relief Funding Passes House

January 20, 2019, 4:44 PM HST · Updated January 20, 4:44 PM
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Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Ed Case voted to pass disaster relief assistance for Hawai‘i, California, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa and other areas affected by recent hurricanes, typhoons, wildfires, earthquakes, volcanoes, and other natural disasters. The legislation passed by a vote of 237 to 187.

Heavy rains hit Kaua‘i and O‘ahu in April, with nearly 50 inches falling over a 24-hour period, damaging more than 760 homes. In May, volcanic eruptions on Hawai‘i Island covered 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. Tropical storm Lane caused more than $35 million in damages.

“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,” Rep. Gabbard said. “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.

The bill would provide $12.9 billion in total emergency spending. The funding 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, and $1.86 billion in assistance to farmers and rural communities.

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The bill would also provide $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 loss of crops from volcanic activity, including Hawaiʻi’s specialty crops like coffee, macadamia nuts, papayas, bananas, mangoes, avocados, and flowers
  • $295.57 million for NOAA operations, research, repair, grants, and construction
  • $15 million for the Legal Services Corporation to help those impacted by natural disasters
  • $78 million for National Park Service construction of facilities, such as Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, related to natural disasters
  • $98.5 million for USGS, $72.3 million of which is allocated 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, 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, for Federal Highways Administration Emergency Relief Program. Hawaiʻi island will be alloted $7.2 million and Kauaʻi will be alloted $52 million.
  • $1.16 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program to rebuild housing, businesses, and public infrastructure damaged during natural disasters

A video of Rep. Gabbard giving a speech about the bill is available online.

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