COVID-19: Federal Funding for Hawai‘i Communities, Transit & Housing

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) announced Federal funding coming to Hawai‘i, including over $100 million for COVID-19 response for public transit and over $7 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). The funding implements portions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), passed by Congress just over a week ago.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

“The recent passage of the CARES Act provided critical assistance for individuals, businesses, and essential services, and we are starting to see these resources delivered to Hawai‘i,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “These resources are going directly to our counties and to support housing programs for those in need.”

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has allocated a total of $107,816,109 for transit in Hawai‘i to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus. The money will reach Hawai‘i through the Urbanized Area, Formula Grants Program Rural Areas Formula Grants Program, and the Tribal Transit Formula Grants Program. The funds are vital to keeping public transportation systems in Hawai‘i — which have seen dramatic drops in use and ridership — survive the pandemic and be there for Hawai‘i’s residents that depend on it to get back to work once the public health crisis has passed.

Starting April 1, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that mortgage servicers must extend deferred or reduced mortgage payment options (forbearance) for up to six months, and must provide an additional six months of forbearance if requested by borrowers with a financial hardship that makes them unable to pay their mortgage due to the COVID-19 National Emergency. This mandate implements provisions contained in the landmark Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). You can read more details in the Department’s full announcement.

HUD is also in charge of existing grant programs Congress provided with additional funds through the CARES Act to help respond to the pandemic.

Through Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), Hawai‘i was awarded the following funds in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Hawai‘i County — $1,543,033
  • Kaua‘i County — $412,929
  • Maui County — $1,104,173
  • Honolulu — $4,872,982

These funds will help construct medical facilities, expand capacity of hospitals, replace HVAC systems, support business manufacturing medical supplies, construct a group living facility, and carry out job training of health care workers and technicians.

Additionally, Honolulu is receiving $95,143 through HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS) as well as $2,429,569 through Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) as part of the CARES Act. ESG funds support the building and operations of more emergency shelters for homeless individuals and families, provide hotel/motel vouchers, childcare and education services, and prevent individuals from becoming homeless.

Background: On March 27, the House passed H.R.748 by voice vote. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is the third bill passed by Congress as part of its emergency response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The bill includes direct cash payments to Americans, assistance for those who are out of work due to the outbreak, funding for small businesses, hospitals, and health care workers, and state and local governments. The bill’s funding for state and local governments includes at least $1.2 billion for Hawai‘i. The CARES Act also provided $25 billion to transit agencies to help to prevent, prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In March, working with Hawai‘i’s Congressional Delegation, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sent two letters calling on President Trump to Hawai‘i’s request for medical equipment, supplies and resources for the state.

Rep. Gabbard has hosted three telephone town hall events, on March 18March 25, and April 1, in order to update Hawai‘i residents with news about what is being done to confront the pandemic and assist those who are being affected by it. She was joined on these calls by state and federal public officials as well as community leaders to answer questions from across the state.

She has also created a COVID-19 resource webpage on her website as well as sent out regular e-newsletter updates to keep connected with constituents as developments happen.

On March 21, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard called for an immediate implementation of a 14-day self-quarantine for all passengers arriving in Hawaiʻi, both visitors and returning residents. The state later announced that a self-quarantine requirement would be implemented on March 26, but Rep. Tulsi Gabbard continued to advocate for an immediate implementation. She also sent a letter calling on the President to issue a minimum two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order — a proven, effective solution to slowing the spread of the virus

Rep. Gabbard voted to pass the first round of emergency funds to address the novel coronavirus. Some Federal funds are already reaching Hawai‘i. The first coronavirus emergency funding bill that I helped pass in Congress has now led to over $750,000 being allocated to 14 community health centers in our district.

Rep. Gabbard voted on March 14 to pass H.R.6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which will provide free testing for COVID-19, two weeks of paid sick leave, up to three months paid family and medical leave, unemployment insurance for furloughed workers, food security for those who rely on food stamps, student meals, senior nutrition plans, and food banks, and increase federal Medicaid funds for local, state, tribal and territorial governments and health systems.

Rep. Gabbard also introduced H.Res. 897, a resolution that would provide an emergency non-taxable Universal Basic Payment of $1,000 per month to all adult Americans until COVID-19 no longer presents a public health emergency. She was the earliest Member of Congress to introduce legislation for a Universal Basic Income-like payment as a temporary economic stimulus package to directly and immediately help Americans as they weather this crisis.

As the virus was first spreading in different parts of the world, Rep. Gabbard called on the Trump Administration to suspend flights from South Korea and Japan given the prevalence of COVID-19 infections in these countries, until they can guarantee all passengers will be tested prior to boarding flights to the United States.

In order to ensure that any treatment developed for COVID-19 is accessible and affordable, Rep. Gabbard joined a letter to President Trump demanding that pharmaceutical companies are not issued exclusive licenses for the production of such treatments or capitalize on drugs that have been funded by taxpayer dollars.

Rep. Gabbard also wrote to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar calling for clear guidelines for state and local governments to receive federal reimbursement for the costs they are incurring as part of their response to this public health crisis.

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