January 16, 2014

APPROPRIATIONS DEAL INCLUDES HIRONO’S INITIATIVES TO EXPAND EARLY EDUCATION, PROTECT HAWAII FARMERS, SUPPORT VETERANS

Hirono Worked With Head Appropriators To Attach Key Measures For Hawaii

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono commended the bipartisan appropriations deal passed by Congress this week. The 2014 omnibus spending bill would fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year and includes several key measures for Hawaii.

“This bipartisan bill is a true compromise and includes hard-fought provisions that will benefit Hawaii,” said Hirono. “I am pleased the Appropriations Committee took into consideration some of Hawaii’s key priorities, from expanding preschool to supporting our state’s farmers to increasing quality medical care for our veterans. During this time of fiscal constraint, I will continue to work with my colleagues across the aisle as well as our congressional delegation to protect federal investments that create jobs, grow the economy and strengthen military readiness in Hawaii.”

The legislation includes a measure Hirono urged colleagues to support that creates a $250 million new state preschool competitive grant program to improve state preschools and serve more children in need. States that already have a high-quality preschool program could receive grant funding to strengthen their efforts. Other states – like Hawaii – could apply for startup funds if they submit a plan to establish a high-quality preschool program within two years. This measure is similar to Hirono’s PRE-K Act, which she introduced last year to praise from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and early childhood advocates including Good Beginnings Alliance.

After personally reaching out to head appropriators, Hirono was also able to attach key measures on behalf of Hawaii’s farmers and environment. The appropriations bill includes an official recommendation from Congress that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service treat the coffee berry borer as a threat and examine methods to control and eradicate the pest. Hirono obtained the first major federal initiative to fight this pest that has been ravaging Hawaii Island coffee farms for almost three years and this recommendation to the USDA represents a significant step forward. The legislation also allocates more than $87 million for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for priority wildlife damage control initiatives. This includes funds to specifically prevent the transport of invasive brown tree snakes, long a serious threat to Hawaii’s unique species and ecosystem. Hirono was also successful in securing $3.5 million in funding to control and contain the population of brown tree snakes in Guam, which would help Hawaii wildlife and tourism.

For a full summary of the bill: http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news.cfm?method=news.view&id=5aa8e660-f52e-4074-945f-9618eb963ae9.


Highlights For Hawaii Include:

Funding $250 Million For Honolulu Rail System:
The bill would fully fund President Obama’s request, supported by Senator Hirono, to fund all New Starts projects. The funding affirms that federal support for Honolulu’s rail project remains strong and that even a divided Congress will continue to fund this commitment as it moves forward, creating jobs and providing transportation options in Hawaii.

$250 Million Competitive Grant To Fund State Preschool:
As a state with a small state funded preschool system, Hawaii would be eligible to compete in the two-tiered program. The program would expand high quality preschool that includes comprehensive services and family engagement to Hawaii families.

More than $66 Million To Build And Maintain Water Systems In Indigenous Communities:
The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which is responsible for building and maintaining water systems on all of its properties, will have access to USDA loans to support providing critical infrastructure to new and existing projects.

Honoring Senator Daniel K. Inouye:
The Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center on Hawaii Island would be designated as the ‘‘Daniel K. Inouye United States Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center.”

Funding for Veteran Medical Facilities at $4.8 Billion:
This funding can be used to expand existing VA hospitals and medical centers and will help serve Hawaii’s veterans.

Increasing Affordable Housing for Native Hawaiians:
Historically, the wait for property on Hawaiian home lands for many Native Hawaiian families has been filled with frustration and disappointment. Through $10 million in appropriations for the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grants and $100,000 for the Native Hawaiian Housing Loan Guarantee Fund, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands will continue to strengthen local communities, assist families with qualifying for home loans and down payments, and help build and repair homes.

Expanding Research Into Alternative & Renewable Energy Technology:

As the home of the U.S. Pacific Command, Hawaii is the military’s gateway to the Asia-Pacific region. To ensure operational security, the military continues to diversify its energy portfolio. This bill would provide the Army, Navy, and Air Force with $25 million each to pursue Alternative Energy Research projects to benefit military readiness, enhance force capabilities and improve energy security.

$15 Million To Support Native Hawaiian Businesses:
Through the Indian Incentive Program, Native Hawaiian-owned businesses are eligible to receive a 5% rebate on eligible Department of Defense contracts.

$500 Million For Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships:
The bill includes many of Senator Hirono’s early learning requests, including a down payment on the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, of which Senator Hirono is a sponsor. The bill would use $500 million to expand Early Head Start (EHS), including EHS-Child Care Partnerships where appropriate.

Restoring Funding To Hawaii Head Start:
Federal funding to Hawaii’s six Head Start programs will be restored to their pre-sequester funding level and will also receive a 1.3 percent cost of living adjustment.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers, Hawaii:
The USACE will receive funding for numerous projects, including: the Ala Wai Canal will receive $400,000; Hilo Harbor Modifications will receive $775,000; and the West Maui Watershed will receive $538,000. Barbers Point Harbor will receive $434,000 for maintenance dredging and the Regional Center. Additional funds for maintenance dredging will be given to Hilo Harbor, $206,000; Honolulu Harbor, $206,000; Kahului Harbor, $206,000; Nawiliwili Harbor, $206,000.