Maui News

Hirono secures reinstatement of benefits for COFA citizens, over $307M for Hawaiʻi in federal spending bill

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US Sen. Mazie Hirono in Lahaina, Maui (2.21.24) PC: Wendy Osher

US Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) secured several wins for Hawaiʻi in a federal spending bill that passed the Senate by a vote of 75-22 on Friday.

In addition to containing the recently-renegotiated Compacts of Free Association (COFA), the package includes the text of Sen. Hirono’s Compact Impact Fairness Act (CIFA) to restore access to a range of federal benefits for COFA citizens who reside in the US, including nearly 20,000 in Hawaiʻi. The package, which passed in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday, now heads to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

“These renegotiated Compacts of Free Association will continue the United States’ decades-long relationship with the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau,” said Sen. Hirono. “In addition to solidifying our relationship with the Compact nations for the next 20 years, this agreement corrects a nearly 30-year old policy failure that has prevented the tens of thousands of COFA citizens who live, work, and pay taxes in the US—many of whom choose to build their lives in Hawaiʻi—from accessing federal benefits.”


She continued: “I’m glad that after years of advocacy to restore these benefits, and following restoration of eligibility for Medicaid, this bill includes my provision to provide access to federal benefits—including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, and more—for COFA citizens living in the US. This change will make life better for thousands of COFA citizens in Hawaiʻi. I’ve appreciated the partnership of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and thank the many advocates—in Hawaiʻi and in COFA communities across the country—whose hard work made this victory possible.”

Sen. Hirono first introduced the Compact Impact Fairness Act in 2021. Today’s passage of CIFA builds upon Sen. Hirono’s legislation to restore Medicaid eligibility for COFA citizens, which was signed into law in 2020.

Additionally, the bill includes over $307 million in Congressionally Directed Spending, also known as earmarks, Sen. Hirono requested for nonprofit organizations and government agencies in Hawaiʻi. 


“I am glad that nearly 50 of the funding requests I submitted for projects in Hawaiʻi were included,” said Sen. Hirono. “These projects will help strengthen our conservation efforts, protect native species, upgrade infrastructure, and support programs that serve our keiki, kupuna, and local families. As we continue working to fund the federal government, I’ll keep fighting to secure crucial federal investments for Hawaiʻi’s families, children, and communities.”

A full list of the CDS projects Sen. Hirono secured in partnership with the Hawaiʻi Congressional delegation is below:


  • Hawaiʻi Land Trust – $1,097,000
    • To install predator proof fencing to protect native forest species from invasive predators.
  • Aha Punana Leo – $1,050,000
    • To improve the infrastructure of Hawaiian language medium facilities and consolidate parcels to better suit the needs of the Hawaiian language community.
  • MA’O Organic Farms – $567,000
    • To construct an Agroforesty Training Baseyard as proper infrastructure to support a new offshoot of youth workforce programs.
  • Hoa ʻĀina O Makaha – $96,000
    • For improvements to the infrastructure of Hoa ʻĀina O Makaha including: complete renovation of the Front House; roof replacement for the tool shed building; electrical power line upgrading to code; termite inspection, treatment, and repair.
  • Hawaiʻi Land Trust – $1,500,000
    • To restore the historic Dickey house structure to a Cultural Learning Center to provide a safe space for students, educators and practitioners from weather conditions, while connecting our community and school partners to the land through place-based experiential learning.


  • Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources – $300,000
    • To evaluate the potential of using native Hawaiian aquatic plants to sequester carbon in freshwater and estuarine ecosystems.
  • Department of Land and Natural Resources, Commission on Water Resources Management – $350,000
    • To improve the state of understanding of the complex hydrologic systems in Hawaiʻi and use sound science to manage and protect water resources into the future.
  • Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources – $700,000
    • To establish varieties of limu (native seaweed) stocks in a secure laboratory setting, maintain a repository of culturally and ecologically important limu, and adapt standard plant tissue culture techniques to maintain diverse limu seed stocks.
  • Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources – $750,000
    • To restore two native estuarine habitats on Hawaiʻi Island and to increase educational opportunities and public awareness about the cultural, historical, and ecological importance of these habitats.
  • University of Hawaiʻi System – $2,250,000
    • To use remote sensing and data modeling to forecast and monitor the spread of rapid ʻōhiʻa death (ROD) across native ʻōhiʻa forests throughout the islands.
  • The Marine Mammal Center – $880,000
    • To work with local cultural advisors, academics, and other stakeholders and partners to design a data-driven behavior change campaign focused on protecting monk seals from harmful human behavior.
  • County of Hawaiʻi, Department of Water Supply – $1,000,000
    • To invest in watershed protection and restoration in West Hawaiʻi.
  • The Nature Conservancy Hawaiʻi and Palmyra – $1,000,000
    • To support the establishment of community-organized post-storm response and coral restoration groups, baseline reef monitoring, and watershed, coastal habitat, and marine restoration projects throughout Hawaiʻi.


  • Army Corps of Engineers (Civil) – $500,000
    • For a feasibility study for Waikīkī Beach Improvements and Ecosystem Restoration, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi.
  • Army Corps of Engineers (Civil) – $500,000
    • For a feasibility study for Waimea Modification, Kauaʻi, HI.


  • City and County of Honolulu, Department of Environmental Services – $800,000
    • To conduct planning, preliminary design, and a construction cost estimate to construct a wastewater recycling facility on the location of a prior wastewater treatment plant located upstream of the Patsy Mink Regional Park.
  • Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife – $700,000
    • To protect this wetland that is home to many birds, invertebrates, and aquatic species including 12 endangered species by constructing a predator exclosure fence.
  • Department of Land and Natural Resources, Commission on Water Resources Management – $2,400,000
    • To decommission unused and abandoned wells across the state that pose a serious threat to drinking water aquifers as pollutants have a direct conduit to the aquifer via an unmaintained well.
  • County of Hawaiʻi, Department of Environmental Management – $2,035,000
    • To renovate an existing sewage pump station and force main (pipeline) that are both about 50 years old.
  • Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife – $165,000
    • To ensure the restoration of Lehua ecosystems following pest eradications.
  • Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife – $2,500,000
    • To continue the effort of releasing sterile male mosquitoes across the islands to save native honeycreepers from extinction.
  • Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife – $1,456,000
    • To expand the facility to improve the likelihood of recovering rare, threatened, and endangered plant and invertebrate species in Maui Nui.
  • County of Hawaiʻi, Department of Environmental Management – $1,000,000
    • To upgrade a pump control system, as the system is obsolete and replacement parts can no longer be acquired.
  • Department of Land and Natural Resources, Commission on Water Resources Management – $959,757
    • To support upgrades and improvements to water systems based on the results of Annual Water Audit data
  • Department of Land and Natural Resources, Commission on Water Resources Management – $959,757
    • To support the construction of 1-2 new DMWs statewide, with a focus on areas experiencing an increased demand on water resources or are targeted for increased development, to monitor the health of Hawaiʻi’s drinking water aquifers.


  • Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam – $49,080,000
    • The planned Waterfront Production Facility will bring light industrial productive capacity and shipboard worker services closer to the drydocks in a permanent and modern facility.
  • Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay – $109,000,000
    • Upgrades a water reclamation facility at Marine Corps Base, Kaneohe Bay.
  • Fort Shafter – $23,000,000
    • Construct a Clearwell and Booster Pump System.
  • Helemano Military Reservation Hawaiʻi – $33,000,000
    • Construct wells, pump station and storage tank.
  • Schofield Barracks – $21,000,000
    • Construct water storage tanks, pumping station and distribution lines.
  • Schofield Barracks – $16,000,000
    • Construct elevated potable water storage tank and distribution lines.


  • Child and Family Service – $1,000,000
    • To undertake demolition and infrastructure work on Child and Family Service’s existing property in an effort to build a new youth residential crisis stabilization facility for children in crisis.
  • City and County of Honolulu – $2,500,000
    • To construct a Kupuna Resource Center (KRC) to better help kupuna (older adults) access services as seamlessly as possible. The KRC will house a resource library and computer center, as well as workspace for Elderly Affairs Division staff to provide direct services.
  • County of Kauaʻi, Department of Public Works – $3,200,000
    • To support design and construction of a roadway, sidewalks, and bike lanes.
  • YWCA of Hawaiʻi Island – $1,500,000
    • To replace a defunct swimming complex with a new, modern preschool, including age-appropriate play areas and a commercial kitchen.
  • County of Kauaʻi – $3,290,000
    • To replace the roof of the Kauaʻi War Memorial Convention Hall, including the curved auditorium, central lobby, and north lobby. The current roof, which was built in the 1960s, has exceeded its useful life.
  • Hui Mālama O Ke Kai Foundation – $785,000
    • To construct a multi-purpose pavilion with a certified commercial kitchen and multipurpose space for educational and community activities.
  • Residential Youth Services and Empowerment (RYSE) – $3,000,000
    • To build and renovate facilities to address youth homelessness through small census living models and residential care, programming, and supportive services.
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaiʻi – $1,500,000
    • To purchase and renovate a building to create a new headquarters for Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaiʻi. The headquarters will serve as a space to host youth programs, to facilitate community and family workshops, to distribute resources, and as a hub for mentoring services for youth and teens.
  • County of Kauaʻi – $1,600,000
  • County of Kauaʻi – $1,800,000
    • To undertake the engineering and design work for a wastewater treatment facility for the Kilauea Affordable Housing subdivision and other areas of Kilauea Town.
  • Island of Hawaiʻi YMCA – $625,000
    • To acquire parcel of land adjacent to the existing Island of Hawaiʻi YWCA, allowing the organization to expand program access.
  • Malaʻai – $676,000
    • To replace an existing outdoor shelter, and be used as an outdoor classroom for the approximately 200 students of Waimea Middle School that participate in Malaʻai’s programs.
  • Child and Family Service – $2,000,000
    • To contribute to the construction of a 6,000 sq ft walk-in service and resource center adjacent to the organization’s existing location.
  • County of Kauaʻi – $1,400,000
    • To develop civil engineering and construction documents for the Waimea 400 affordable housing subdivision, including the engineering and design of all required on- and off-site civil infrastructure including, stormwater systems, water systems, wastewater, roadways, and utilities.
  • Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife – $900,000
    • To build a Hawaiian design-inspired educational center at the State Kawaiele and Mana Waterbird Sanctuary for locals and visitors to learn about the complex history of West Kauaʻi and see five endangered Hawaiian waterbirds, including the nene, Hawaiʻi’s state bird.
  • Hui o Hauʻula – $5,399,000
    • To replace a community center in disrepair with a community resilience hub that functions as both a new community center and as a wind- and tsunami-resilient shelter in an area of Oʻahu that does not currently have that kind of shelter.

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