Rep. Tokuda: “We’re going to fight like hell” to ensure FEMA is funded for Maui recovery
August 31, 2023, 2:18 AM HST
US Representative Jill Tokuda (HI-02) and Democratic Whip Katherine Clark (MA-05) announced a shared legislative priority for Congress to approve funding for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund as Maui continues recovery from the Aug. 8 deadly wildfire in Lahaina.
“The Relief Fund will be in deep shortfall by the end of the fiscal year in September. With the increasing possibility that partisan gridlock could result in a government shut down, aid for Maui and communities across the country is at significant risk,” Congresswoman Tokuda advised.
Rep. Tokuda spent the week touring the fire devastation, talking with impacted families, and assessing the work FEMA is doing to address the ongoing response and recovery effort. She hosted Whip Clark to ensure her colleagues are aware of the long road to recovery ahead for Maui and the Lahaina community.
On Wednesday afternoon, Tokuda and Clark spoke form the Great Lawn at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College, about the federal response and the fight to pass the FEMA supplemental when members return on Sept. 12, 2023.
“This is a community that has suffered unimaginable loss, but is meeting it with unimaginable strength and resilience,” said Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts. “That is our pledge together as House Democrats—that our caucus will be here for the long recovery ahead, to make sure that the resources are here, so that people can recover and fully rebuild this community.”
On Wednesday, the Biden Administration announced $95 million will be going to help harden Hawaiʻi’s electrical systems. The funds come from the infrastructure bill that was passed in the last Congress. It is aimed at not only helping with the recovery effort, but in the prevention of wildfires and natural disasters like this in the future.
“I think every single one of us knows, when you put your feet here, when you feel what we have been feeling, when you see what we have been seeing, when you experience the devastation, but also the hope for where we go from here, you get the urgency of why we’re going to fight like hell to make sure when we go back in September, we have the money we need to keep government running so that resources do not slow down here on Maui—that we get the aid and support that we need, not just right now,” said Rep. Tokuda.
“This is a generational issue that we must commit to. How we treat this disaster, how we take care of Maui is a message to this entire country of how we as Americans take care of each other when we need it most,” she said. “We need to make sure our Maui ʻohana knows that when disaster strikes, our federal government will be here with a whole-of-government approach, to wrap its arms around it quickly, and take care of all of us now and into the future.”
Whip Clark, who holds the second most senior position in the House Democratic Caucus said, “We have to understand, this is a long-term recovery. We’re three weeks in and it could be years before we really start the construction and rebuilding that’s needed,” said Clark. “As much anxiety as we saw and true trauma reflected in people, there is a resilience and a strength in this community that we have a responsibility to honor by doing our jobs to keep the government funded, keep it open and keep this disaster recovery money flowing here.”
Rep. Clark noted that “FEMA goes where disasters happen.” She said, “It is only a matter of time as we see so many more wildfires, floods, hurricanes that are coming in over very warm waters. Because of climate change, unfortunately, you’re going to see more, not less natural disasters, and it is a fundamental responsibility that we pass that supplemental [and] get the funding that FEMA needs.