U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, put it like this in describing the recent federal spending bill and what it means for Hawaii:
“This is the best appropriations bill that we’ve seen for our state since I got here. This appropriations bill will give our state funding to create jobs, help our veterans, protect our environment and strengthen education and health care programs.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard wasn’t as wild about it, but voted for the spending package.
“While I have serious concerns about portions of this spending bill, it funds critical programs and necessary investments to address the many challenges facing our communities and ends the destructive trend of temporary funding bills that cause uncertainty and have threatened multiple government shutdowns,” she said in a press release.
“As Hawaii faces a severe lack of affordable housing and the worst ranked infrastructure in the nation, this legislation will increase funding for highway upgrades, expand affordable housing programs, invest in our rural infrastructure and more.”
Gabbard said, however, Congress must put people before politics.
“In passing this legislation today, Congress has carried out the bare minimum of its responsibilities, but has by no means set an example of good governance. We cannot continue to govern with brinksmanship and partisan divides, narrowly dodging government shutdowns, and with deals cut behind closed doors, leaving communities across the country hanging in the balance.”
Here’s what Sen. Mazie K. Hirono said of the Omnibus Spending Bill for fiscal year 2018:
“While this agreement includes funding for many important programs for Hawaii and the country, I am deeply disappointed that it does not protect the 1.8 million Dreamers Donald Trump unnecessarily put at risk when he canceled DACA. The president created this crisis, and he has sabotaged every effort we’ve made to protect Dreamers. I will continue fighting so that Dreamers can live their lives and pursue their dreams in the only country they know — America.”
End of the day, the deal benefits Hawaii. It will increase funding for clean energy projects and VA clinics, as well as Native Hawaiian health and education programs. The bill also adds billions in funding for programs that support telehealth in Hawaii, affordable housing programs, and the Honouliuli National Monument.
Here’s a brief look at some of the new and increased funding for Hawaii:
w Native Hawaiian education — $36.4 million, a $3 million increase from last year.
w Native Hawaiian health care — $17.5 million, a $3.1 million increase from last year. This funding will support five health centers on Hawaii Island, Kauai, Molokai, Maui and Oahu.
w Affordable housing—$41.4 million, a $5.8 million increase from last year.
w Highways and transportation — $177.4 million, a $3.5 million increase from last year. This estimated funding is distributed from the Highway Trust Fund to Hawaii for highway maintenance and new construction of bridges, roads and bike and pedestrian paths.
w Coral reef conservation — $26.6 million (nationwide), a $600,000 increase from last year. This funding supports NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, which addresses the top threats to coral reef ecosystems in Hawaii and across the country.
w Regional Coastal Resilience Grants — $30 million (nationwide), a $15 million increase from last year. The program funds projects that help coastal communities and ecosystems prepare for extreme weather events, climate hazards and changing ocean conditions.
w Native Hawaiian housing — $2 million. The Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant Program provides financial assistance for Native Hawaiian families to obtain new homes, make renovations, build community facilities and receive housing services, including counseling, financial literacy and other critical resources to address housing disparities.
w Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH)— $1 million. REACH is a national program to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities by providing grants to community-based organizations that work to reduce chronic illnesses and encourage healthy lifestyles in underserved populations.
w Tsunami program—$31.6 million (nationwide). The NOAA Tsunami Program provides funding to coastal states for preparedness activities such as inundation mapping, disaster planning, and tsunami education.
w Endangered Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles protection — $8 million. Hawaiian monk seals are the only seal species in the world that live in only one nation’s territorial waters. This funding will continue to support monk seal conservation and recovery. Funding will also support sea turtle conservation activities such as interagency consultation and technical assistance on marine turtle by-catch reduction strategies, cooperative conservation actions in the greater Pacific region, marine turtle stock assessments and scientific research projects.
That’s only a look at some of the areas federal funding will support Hawaii. Based on the numbers, our state’s elected leaders in Congress did well securing money for the Aloha State. These funds are needed, necessary and will make a difference.