$12 Million in HUD Grants for Hawaii Coronavirus Response & Recovery

Today, Senator Mazie K. Hirono announced that Hawaii has received more than $12 million in Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants to address the critical housing needs of Hawaii residents during the coronavirus pandemic. These funds come from the third coronavirus relief package Congress passed last week.

The grants include Community Development Block Grants, Emergency Solutions Grants, and grants through the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program. The grants will help service providers respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing resources to protect Hawaii’s vulnerable communities. Potential uses of funding include the purchase of additional personal protective equipment, ensuring critical response infrastructure is available when needed, and helping at-risk populations stay safe. The HUD funds will be distributed to the state, as well as to Hawaii County, Kauai County, Maui County, and the City and County of Honolulu.

“The coronavirus pandemic has stretched resources thin for families and communities across the country,” Senator Hirono said. “This funding is a critical early step in protecting and providing resources for some of our most at-risk populations. I will continue my advocacy to ensure that future coronavirus relief packages prioritize workers, families, and the most vulnerable.”

Trump Administration Moves Tax Day to July 15

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) released the following statement after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that Tax Day would move from April 15 to July 15 for businesses and taxpayers: 

Sen. Mazie Hirono, Adjutant General Major Hara and Mayoral Candidate Ikaika Marzo

“As Americans continue to confront the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the last thing they need to worry about is the looming tax deadline,” Sen. Hirono said. “This delay provides much needed flexibility for taxpayers so that we can all focus on the essential task of confronting this public health emergency.”

Sen. Hirono and 19 of her Senate colleagues called for the Internal Revenue Service to extend the filing deadline to provide taxpayers additional flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Hirono Attends Dedication of Daniel K. Inouye Highway New Phase Completion

Senator Mazie K. Hirono yesterday dedicated a new phase of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, formerly known as Saddle Road.

Mayor Harry Kim and Senator Mazie Hirono at the Saddle Road dedication.

Yesterday’s ceremony marked the completion of the Saddle Road Improvement Project. Construction on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway began in 2004, and the project’s completion creates the shortest route between East and West Hawaii Island.  (*Editors Note… the project will be extended all the way down to the Queen Kaahumanu Highway)

“This project has been in the making for decades, and it’s only through coordination between federal, state, and local governments, and the Hawaii Island community that we were able to complete the Daniel K. Inouye Highway,” said Senator Hirono. “Saddle Road was one of the most dangerous roads in the state, but now we have a roadway that will reduce accidents, save lives, and fulfill Senator Inouye’s vision to connect East and West Hawaii.”

Senator Helps Park Rangers Get Every Kid in a Park

Fourth graders on a field trip to the erupting summit of Kīlauea Monday morning received their free Every Kid in a Park pass from a strong supporter of the program: Senator Mazie K. Hirono of Hawai‘i.

Ka‘ū Learning Academy fourth grade students learn about Kīlauea volcano and the lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u Crater. NPS Photo/Janice Wei

Ka‘ū Learning Academy fourth grade students learn about Kīlauea volcano and the lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u Crater. NPS Photo/Janice Wei

The Senator, Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando, and park rangers greeted students from Ka‘ū Learning Academy, a charter school located 41 miles south of Kīlauea, at Kīlauea Overlook. The keiki hiked along Crater Rim Trail with Senator Hirono to the observation deck at Jaggar Museum to learn about the volcano in the backyard, and earn their Every Kid in a Park pass.

The Every in Kid in a Park program is part of President Obama’s commitment to protect our nation’s iconic outdoor spaces and ensure that every American has the opportunity to visit them. This is the second year of the innovative program, which gives fourth graders and those accompanying them, free access to 2,000 public lands and waters nationwide – including Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park – for a whole year.

Fourth graders from Ka‘ū Learning Academy display their free Every Kid in a Park pass at Jaggar Museum. NPS Photo/Janice Wei

Fourth graders from Ka‘ū Learning Academy display their free Every Kid in a Park pass at Jaggar Museum. NPS Photo/Janice Wei

“Senator Hirono is a dedicated advocate of education for Hawai‘i youth, and fully embraces Every Kid in a Park,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “The Ka‘ū students who hiked with her today not only met one of Hawai‘i’s senators, but were able to spend quality time outdoors with someone who truly advocates for our keiki and national parks,” Orlando said.

The students took photos with Senator Hirono, and were mesmerized by the surges of lava spattering from a vent within Halema‘uma‘u  Crater, one mile away.

“My favorite thing was seeing the volcano,” said 9-year-old T’rael Pesnell, who took photos of his classmate posing with the eruption behind him.

Senator Hirono also presented the national park with Senate Resolution 541, proclaiming Aug. 1, 2016 as Hawai‘i Volcanoes and Haleakalā National Parks Day, to honor the parks’ centennial anniversaries.

“As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, the Every Kid in a Park program promotes a lifelong appreciation for our environment and natural resources,” said Senator Mazie K. Hirono.

Closeup up view of the Every Kid in a Park pass. NPS Photo

Closeup up view of the Every Kid in a Park pass. NPS Photo

Educators for all grades can learn more about the park’s educational opportunities and curriculum on the park website: https://www.nps.gov/havo/learn /education/index.htm, and by calling the Education Center at (808) 985-6019.

Hirono, Senate Democrats Call for Vote on Clean Zika Funding Bill

Senators Mazie K. Hirono and Patty Murray (D-WA) called on Senate Republicans to stop stalling critical federal funding to fight the Zika virus. President Obama first sent an emergency funding request to Congress to address Zika in February.

mosquito-bite“It’s been nearly four months since the Senate overwhelmingly passed a compromise measure that would fund the fight against Zika,” said Senator Hirono. “Since then, it has become clear that Congressional Republicans would rather limit access to family planning services- which puts millions more women at risk of contracting Zika and giving birth to a child with microcephaly- than ensure that we are fully prepared to combat this disease.”

Earlier this year, Senator Hirono met with Governor David Ige, Hawaii Director of Health Dr. Virginia Pressler, and top Hawaii public health experts to raise awareness of the threat Zika poses to Hawaii families. Eleven travel-acquired cases of Zika have been reported in Hawaii.

On Equal Pay Day, Senator Hirono Leads Measure To End Gender Barriers In STEM Careers

Senator Mazie K. Hirono today marked Equal Pay Day by introducing the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Opportunities Act, legislation that would improve inclusion of women, minorities, and people with disabilities in STEM careers. Equal Pay Day marks the day in 2016 when, on average, women’s wages catch up to what men earned in 2015.

mazie 412“It’s unacceptable that we are more than 100 days into 2016, but women’s salaries are only now catching up with what men made last year,” said Senator Hirono. “While the gender pay gap affects women across all fields, women in STEM careers continue to face barriers that can limit their opportunities for employment and equal pay. The STEM Opportunities Act takes a comprehensive approach to combatting factors that limit the advancement of women and other underrepresented groups in STEM. For America to remain competitive in a 21st century economy, we must break down barriers for working women through passing the Paycheck Fairness Act and the STEM Opportunities Act.”

Senator Hirono also took to the Senate floor to mark Equal Pay Day and highlight disparities in STEM fields. For example, at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in school year 2014-2015, men earned more than five times the number of computer science bachelor’s degrees and three times as many bachelor’s degrees in the College of Engineering as women.

The STEM Opportunities Act helps federal science agencies and institutions of higher education identify and share best practices to overcome barriers that can hurt the inclusion of women and other underrepresented groups in STEM, and also allows universities and nonprofits to receive competitive grants and recognition for mentoring women and minorities in STEM fields. The STEM Opportunities Act builds on legislation championed by Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Ranking Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

The Senate measure is cosponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

“Science, technology, engineering and math are drivers of innovation in states like New Jersey, and across the country. If we are to remain globally competitive, we have to ensure all Americans- including women and minorities- are prepared to succeed in these important fields,” said Senator Booker. “I am pleased to support the STEM Opportunities Act to create inclusive career pathways that will help grow our economy and create opportunities for more Americans.”

“The STEM fields are critical to driving innovation and economic growth,” said Senator Gillibrand. “But we limit our potential when our STEM workforce does not reflect the diversity of our nation. I was proud to lead a successful bipartisan amendment to the recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act to increase access to high-quality STEM coursework in K-12 education for students who are members of groups underrepresented in STEM fields. The STEM Opportunities Act will improve opportunities for advancement in STEM fields for women and underrepresented minorities further down the pipeline – in higher education, in early careers, and for STEM academics and professionals.”

“Increasing women and minority participation in the STEM economy will keep the United States at the forefront of scientific discovery and technological innovation in the 21st century,” said Senator Markey. “The diversity of STEM professionals will help fuel the diversity of discoveries in science, technology, engineering and math. For our future scientific endeavors to produce the next generation of life-changing results, we need to ensure that our universities, laboratories and research institutions reflect the rich diversity of our nation and continue to receive the support that fosters breakthroughs and helps maintain American leadership in science and technology.”

“If we’re serious about empowering more young women and communities of color to take on STEM careers and compete in the 21st century economy, we need to ramp up our research efforts to identify and share best practices so that we can diversify the next generation of STEM professionals,” said Senator Murray. “STEM skills are so important for Washington state’s economy, so making these fields more inclusive will ultimately strengthen our workforce and our economy in the years to come.”

“By expanding access to STEM disciplines in schools and sharing best practices for recruitment and retention in STEM careers, we can help more women and minorities become engaged in science, technology, engineering and math, boosting economic success and strengthening America’s competitiveness in the 21st-century global economy,” said Senator Peters. “The STEM Opportunities Act of 2016 will improve inclusion of women and minorities in STEM fields by tapping into and fostering their talents.”

The American Association for University of Women, American Women in Science, Girls, Inc., MAES- Latinos in Science and Engineering, Maui Economic Development Board, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, Society for Women Engineers, Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center support the STEM Opportunities Act.

“When we reduce barriers that deter women and other underrepresented minorities from pursuing careers in STEM fields, American businesses get a leg up on the rest of the world. The STEM Opportunities Act will open doors for a more diverse science community, and in so doing help spur innovation and increase our global competitiveness,” said Lisa Maatz, Vice President of Government Relations at American Association of University Women. “Any serious attempt to modernize our science workforce and our nation’s science priorities is incomplete without this measure.

“In Hawaii, high-paying STEM jobs are boosting our island economy,” said Leslie Wilkins, Vice President, of the Maui Economic Development Board and Director of the Women in Technology Project. “To grow the education to workforce pipeline needed to keep up with STEM job demand, our Women in Technology initiative continues to engage girls and women who are under-represented in technology fields. WIT’s hands-on STEM curriculum, training, mentoring and internship programs have had a significant impact statewide but still need ongoing support.  Mahalo to Senator Hirono for introducing the STEM Opportunities Act, a comprehensive bill that could strengthen our efforts, as well as others throughout Hawaii and the nation.”

“Investing in STEM is an investment in our nation’s future, and it is imperative that women and people of color are represented and empowered to succeed in these fields. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are underrepresented in STEM leadership roles, and despite stereotypes, some AAPI subgroups are underrepresented in STEM overall. Disaggregated data on AAPIs at institutions of higher education and federal science agencies will highlight the need for more investment in AAPIs in STEM fields, and this legislation would benefit all women and people of color in STEM. Senator Hirono has been a strong advocate for STEM inclusion, and we also thank her for her ongoing leadership on behalf of AAPI communities in all areas,” said National Council of Asian Pacific Americans National Director Christopher Kang.

“Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) enthusiastically supports the STEM Opportunities Act of 2016 and applauds its sponsors for their efforts.  Improving data collection, research and sharing best practices across federal science agencies and institutions of higher education to address systemic factors impeding the inclusion of underrepresented groups in STEM fields are all key elements in the Nation’s interest.  The PAESMEM awards are particularly essential in bringing all groups into STEM; SACNAS was a PAESMEM recipient in 2004 and 20 of SACNAS’ members have received PAESMEM awards.   In order to keep our nation competitive in science and engineering, such legislation as this Act is essential. As classical Clayton Christensen ‘disruptive thinking’ implies, helping the unserved and underserved—women and underrepresented minorities in STEM in this case—enables the greatest movement forward. SACNAS has over 6,000 paid members and serves a larger constituency of over 18,000—over half of whom are females—with particular emphasis on minorities underrepresented in STEM,” said Robert E. Barnhill, Ph.D, Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science Vice President, Science Policy & Strategic Initiatives.

“SEARAC commends Senator Hirono’s proposed STEM Opportunities Act for taking a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to strengthening and diversifying the STEM workforce through grants for evidence-based efforts, the creation of a federal inter-agency group to create policies that include a more diverse STEM workforce, and the collection of data to examine progress towards increasing STEM opportunities for underrepresented groups.  SEARAC is especially pleased that the STEM Opportunities Act collects disaggregated data for AAPI students — which will illuminate the disparities in access and participation to STEM opportunities within the AAPI community,” said Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC).

Senator Hirono Announces Four Big Island Students Selected as Class of 2018 Nominees to U.S. Service Academies

Senator Mazie K. Hirono today announced her nomination list of 32 students to the U.S. military service academies for the Class of 2018. The students’ applications are now being considered by the four academies for final selections.

Congresswoman Hirono Introduces Resolution Honoring Mother Marianne of Molokai (file photo)

Congresswoman Hirono Introduces Resolution Honoring Mother Marianne of Molokai (file photo)

Four students were selected from Hawaii Island. Hirono has nominated James Whalen of Makua Lani Christian Academy, Scott Takahashi of Waiakea High School, and Christopher Hutt and Phil K. Aganus both of Kamehameha Schools – Keaau.

U.S. Air Force Academy: James Whalen (Kailua Kona), Makua Lani Christian Academy
James Whalen is both a tremendous athlete and model student. Mr. Whalen is a varsity athlete in soccer, tennis, and cross country, and was selected for the Olympic Development Program State Selection Camp in 2011. He currently sits on the Honor Roll and has received the Principal’s Award for his academic achievements. Additionally, he has been a dedicated member of the Boy Scouts and in August of 2013 went to the Eagle Board of Review.

U.S. Military Academy at West Point: Scott Takahashi (Hilo), Waiakea High School
Scott Takahashi plans to commit his life to a career in the U.S. Army and follow in the footsteps of his father, uncles, and grandfather. After much research and consideration, has come to the decision that he would benefit most from the training and responsibilities provided to officers and academy cadets in order to contribute most to the Army and military as a whole. Mr. Takahashi participates in JROTC at his high school and was introduced to the idea of attending an Academy by his senior instructor during his freshman year of high school.

U.S. Naval Academy: Christopher Hutt (Keaau), Kamehameha Schools – Keaau
Christopher Hutt has decided that pursuing a career in the military through an education at a service academy is the path in life he wants to follow. He came to this conclusion under the influence of his family’s various roles in the military, specifically his father’s time in the U.S. Navy. Mr. Hutt has since joined the Civil Air Patrol and is frequently building his leadership capacity. He believes that the Naval Academy helps cadets to develop courage, leadership, and character.

U.S. Air Force Academy: Phil K. Aganus (Hilo), Kamehameha Schools – Keaau
Phil Aganus is interested in pursuing an education at the U.S. Air Force Academy, as he sees the school as a series of physical and mental challenges with the teachings and core values of leadership and service. Mr. Aganus would eventually like to become a pilot or engineer. He is a scholar and a varsity athlete in football (where he is also the team captain), soccer, and track and field, and won the Scholar Athlete award, something given to a student with both scholastic and athletic achievements.

The four military service academies are: the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

U.S. Representatives and Senators submit nominations to the four service academies. Each academy’s director of admissions then selects from the submitted lists of nominees who are measured on their scholastic achievement, leadership experience, school involvement, athletic and extra-curricular activities, community contributions and volunteer or employment experiences. Nomination does not guarantee appointment.

Full List – Senator Hirono’s Class of 2018 Academy Nominations:

U.S. Naval Academy

  • Anna Cochrane (Kapolei), Moanalua High School
  • Michael B. Compton (Kailua), Le Jardin Academy
  • Christopher Hutt (Keaau), Kamehameha Schools – Keaau
  • Kristen Kadooka (Kailua), Kalaheo High School
  • Maximo Mejia (Honolulu), Roosevelt High School
  • Zachary Moore (Kailua), Le Jardin Academy
  • Kanoeala Nakoa (Honolulu), Kaiser High School
  • Drew Olice (Aiea), Radford High School
  • Kaila A. Wang (Honolulu), Honolulu Community College
  • Joseph D.K. Yokoi (Kaneohe), Kamehameha Schools – Kapalama

U.S. Air Force Academy

  • Phil K. Aganus (Hilo), Kamehameha Schools – Keaau
  • Jennifer Borzilleri (Kapolei), Island Pacific Academy
  • Conner Chung (Honolulu), Sacred Hearts Academy
  • Jason C. Evans (Kaneohe), Kalaheo High School
  • Marissa Goo (Kapaa), Kapaa High School
  • Trent Hori (Kahului), Maui High School
  • Keoki Massad (Honolulu), Kamehameha Schools – Kapalama
  • Devon H. Miller (Aiea), Grammar School at Leeds (England)
  • Harmony Pacheco (Honolulu), Kamehameha Schools – Kapalama
  • James Whalen (Kailua Kona), Makua Lani Christian Academy

U.S. Military Academy at West Point

  • Iain J. Armitage (Kula), Kamehameha Schools – Maui
  • Shiloh Begley (Kapaa), Kapaa High School
  • Andrew Drake (Kaneohe), Kalaheo High School
  • Ethan Finberg (Kula), Seabury Hall
  • Jensen Fontanilla (Honolulu), Iolani School
  • Seamus Hurley (Wahiawa), Saint Louis School
  • Erin K.G. Lindsey (Kula), Kamehameha Schools – Maui
  • Bradley Pierce (Kailua), Le Jardin Academy
  • Scott Takahashi (Hilo), Waiakea High School
  • Gabriel K. Yarbrough (Kailua), Kalaheo High School

U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

  • Nathan Fields (Mililani), Leilehua High School
  • Erin Scheidt (Waipahu), Kamehameha Schools – Kapalama

Hirono, Kim and Kenoi Announce Expanded Social Security Services at West Hawaii Civic Center

After working for 16 months to increase Social Security Administration (SSA) service for West Hawaii residents, Senator Mazie K. Hirono joined SSA Regional Commissioner Grace Kim and Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi to announce expanded Social Security services for residents at the West Hawaii Civic Center.

West Hawaii Civic Center

West Hawaii Civic Center

In November, the Social Security Administration announced it would end monthly Kona office hours due to budget constraints, forcing West Hawaii kupuna to make a four-hour roundtrip drive to meet with representatives.

Beginning August 22, residents will be able to go the West Hawaii Civic Center on the second and fourth Thursday of each month from 9am to 1pm to meet with SSA representatives using the new video conferencing system.

“This announcement is great news for Hawaii Island kupuna and shows that when we work together, we can make meaningful differences in people’s lives,” Hirono said. “This video conferencing service will greatly ease the ability of our kupuna to receive the Social Security services they have earned. I greatly appreciate the efforts of the Social Security Administration, Mayor Kenoi, as well as AARP Hawaii, the Hawaii Executive Office on Aging’s Sage PLUS program, and Hawaiian Telcom for getting this done.”

Hirono led the effort to coordinate with Hawaii County and a number of volunteer groups, including the Hawaii Island state librarians, AARP Hawaii, Sage PLUS, RSVP, and Medicare Patrol – to make the video conferencing service a reality for West Hawaii residents. At the urging of West Hawaii constituents and AARP Hawaii, Hirono initially contacted the SSA in April 2012 to address reports of crowding and long lines at the SSA monthly contact stations and to urge the agency to expand its monthly face-to-face Kona visits by Hilo SSA staff.

After the SSA announced it would end these monthly visits, Hirono continued to push for video conferencing services that wouldn’t require Hilo SSA staff to travel to Kona and worked closely with community leaders to execute a formal agreement and coordinate the location, service dates, and technical installation.

At today’s event, Hirono joined SSA Regional Commissioner Barbara Kim Stanton and Mayor Kenoi to thank the volunteer groups and Hawaiian Telcom for their partnership in bringing this valuable service to the West Hawaii community.

“Mahalo to all the partners for working together to help our West Hawai’i seniors access the Social Security services they depend upon. We’re happy to welcome this valuable community service to the West Hawai’i Civic Center,” said Mayor Billy Kenoi.

“Assistance made available via this video conferencing arrangement will be an economic lifeline for West Hawaii residents,” said AARP Hawaii State Director Barbara Kim Stanton. “Nearly a third of older Hawaii residents rely on Social Security for 50 percent or more of their family income. Our low- and middle-income seniors are even more reliant on Social Security’s earned benefit, typically receiving nearly three-quarters of their income from this vital program.

“AARP Hawaii is enormously grateful for the leadership and commitment of our community partners – the Social Security Administration, Mayor Billy Kenoi, and especially Senator Mazie Hirono, for responding to and working with AARP volunteers to make this service a reality,” Stanton added.

While Pamela Cunningham of the Hawaii Executive Office on Aging said, “The Executive Office on Aging’s Sage PLUS Program is inspired by the community volunteers and agencies of West Hawaii that have committed to this program to help their neighbors.”

“We’re proud to be helping as the technology partner on this innovative solution enabling West Hawaii residents to communicate ‘face-to-face’ with the Social Security Administration,” said Paul Krueger, Hawaiian Telcom’s Vice President – Sales & Product Marketing.

Senator Mazie Hirono Unveils Proposal that Help Hawaii Veterans

The day before the Veterans’ Affairs Committee considers eight bills that would have major impacts on vets across America, Senator Mazie K. Hirono filed three amendments designed to specifically help vets in Hawaii access federal veterans’ programs.

Senator Hirono

Senator Hirono

Two of Hirono’s amendments would help unemployed Native Hawaiian and Hawaii Island veterans access programs to help get jobs. Another Hirono amendment would ensure that Native Hawaiian-serving organizations are eligible to be considered for public/private partnerships to assist homeless vets.

The committee will consider eight bills tomorrow, including legislation that will help jobless vets find employment opportunities, improve assistance for homeless vets, improve care for female vets and align benefits with increases in cost of living.

“Hawaii’s veterans served and sacrificed for our freedoms, and we must provide the support they deserve. Among the eight bills my Veterans’ Affairs Committee colleagues and I will consider are proposals that would help veterans get jobs and help provide more assistance to homeless vets. Over the past weeks, I have explored ways that these programs could work better for Hawaii veterans, and today I am filing three amendments that will improve programs for Native Hawaiian and Hawaii Island vets. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the committee to get these measures adopted during tomorrow’s mark-up.”

Below are summaries of Hirono’s three amendments:

  • Transportation Assistance For Hawaii Island Veterans In New Jobs Programs:
    With more than 80 miles between towns like Hawi and Hilo, Hawaii Island’s geography can make transportation a challenge for some Hawaii veterans seeking to participate in new U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employment assistance programs. Hirono’s amendment would enable veterans to receive transportation subsidies for commutes up to 150 miles to and from their job site.
  • Outreach To Native Hawaiian Veterans For New Jobs Programs:
    Native Hawaiian veterans and native veterans who do not live on tribal lands are not mentioned in the bill, which potentially excludes them from targeted outreach efforts. Hirono’s amendment essentially expands the scope of native veteran outreach to include organizations that serve these populations.
  • Include Native Hawaiian Organizations For Public/Private Partnerships Providing Legal Services To Homeless Veterans:
    Hirono’s amendment includes Native Hawaiian-serving organizations among the entities the VA can consider in distributing the partnerships with public/private entities to provide legal services to homeless veterans.

Senator Hirono and USDA Announce First Major Federal Initiative to Fight Coffee Berry Borer

After Hirono Urged USDA To Take Action Against The Highly Destructive Beetle Earlier This Year, Department Agrees To Spend $1 Million Immediately To Set-Up Hawaii Operation To Fight Invasive Species

Senator Mazie K. Hirono and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled the first major federal initiative today to fight the coffee berry borer that has been ravaging Hawaii Island coffee farms for almost three years. The project, a new arm of the USDA’s integrated pest management program, will be a scientifically-based approach to fighting the invasive species. In the immediate term, USDA will spend an initial $1 million dollars to set-up the Hawaii operation.

Coffee Berry Borer (Hypothenemus hampei)

Coffee Berry Borer (Hypothenemus hampei)

“This new initiative to fight the coffee berry borer is great news for Hawaii and our economy, and I am very pleased that the USDA has recognized the threat of this highly destructive invasive species,” said Hirono. “Our state produces some of the world’s best coffee, and coffee is an important export from our state. But the livelihood of Hawaii Island coffee growers is increasingly being threatened by the coffee berry borer, as many farmers are forced to abandon large portions of their yields due to infestation each year. That’s why I originally urged the USDA to set up this initiative and have been working closely with the department to begin its implementation. USDA, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and the University of Hawaii will collectively work to help coffee farmers combat and contain this invasive species.”

The announcement of the new project comes after Hirono urged the department to set up a Hawaii operation to fight the coffee berry borer. After working closely with Hirono and Hawaii coffee farmers to assess the need for the program, USDA agreed to immediately implement a new initiative to fight the devastating invasive species.

“USDA shares your concerns about the agricultural and economic impacts of this noxious pest,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote to Hirono in a letter earlier this month. “As such, I am pleased to announce the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service has funded an Area Wide Integrated Pest Management program to aid in controlling the coffee berry borer in the United States.”

Electronic scan of the coffee berry borer

Electronic scan of the coffee berry borer

Members of the Hawaii delegation have been working to get more funding for a possible program in the Farm Bill currently being considered in Congress. Ahead of USDA’s agreement to fund a program, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard introduced a successful amendment which was included in the Farm Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that authorized funding for a USDA program. Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa cosponsored the measure. Hirono introduced a similar measure in the Senate that was cosponsored by Senator Brian Schatz.

“The coffee berry borer has been a destructive force striking at the heart of Hawai‘i’s multi-million dollar coffee industry,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. “In just two years, our treasured Kona coffee industry suffered more than $9 million in market losses, representing a roughly 25 percent revenue decrease. The economic impact has been deeply felt by coffee farms, most of which are small family farms, and coffee processors are being forced to lay off workers or reduce hours. The USDA initiative being established in Hawai‘i will help local coffee growers combat the effects of this invasive and destructive pest.”

The new program will be tasked with distributing effective treatments to local farmers and educating them on the most effective treatment practices, researching the genetic makeup of the coffee berry borer to find its weakness and disposing of infected plants. In his letter, Vilsack explained that the new USDA initiative will coordinate with local coffee farmers, the University of Hawaii and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture to use the following techniques to fight the borer:

  • Distribute the most effective repellents to farmers and training them on how to best use these treatments
  • Research new types of pest controls that could be more effective in killing the beetles
  • Create a plant sanitation program that decreases the opportunities for borer to reproduce and spread
  • Study the borer to find how the species is similar or different that other agricultural pest in order to develop better methods for controlling the pest

Hawaii Island is home to more than 700 small coffee farms. In 2011, coffee farmers in Hawaii produced more than 8 million pounds of coffee, valued at more than $30 million.

The borer is an insect native to Central Africa that lives, feeds and reproduces in both immature and mature coffee berries. This damage can have a significant negative impact on the quality and quantity of coffee crop yields. As a direct result of the coffee berry borer, many farmers in 2012 have expressed concerns that their yields were in jeopardy. Recent reports have found infestation rates of up to 80% for some Hawaii farms.

Vilsack’s letter to Hirono agreeing to start the program, as well as her initial call for the USDA to create the initiative, read below:

USDA to Mazie

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Senator Hirono Again Pushes To Make Immigration Bill Fairer For Women

Senator Mazie K. Hirono today took to the Senate floor to highlight a major flaw in the immigration reform bill currently being debated in the Senate.


In her remarks, Hirono pointed out how the new merit-based immigration system that gives preference to potential immigrants with high level education and technical expertise would heavily disadvantage women, since women across the globe do not have the same educational and career opportunities as men.
“Too many women overseas do not have the same educational or career advancement opportunities available to men in those countries,” Hirono said. “This legislation increases the amount of employment based visas, immigration avenues that favor men over women by nearly a four to one margin. Using the past as our guide, it’s easy to see how the new merit-based system with heavy emphasis on factors like education and experience will disadvantage women who apply for green card status.”

Senator Hirono said she is working with her female colleagues to introduce an amendment that would correct this unfairness.

Hawaii Will Receive $17 Million for Disaster Relief

Senator Mazie K. Hirono, Senator Brian Schatz, and Representative Tulsi Gabbard announced today that Hawaii will receive $17 million for disaster relief.


The funds come from a grant administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The grant will help the state repair roads and highways damaged by heavy rains causing flooding and landslides on Kauai and Maui in late February and early March 2012. Repair work will include emergency repairs to restore traffic flow, minimize existing damage, protect remaining facilities, and restore highways to pre-disaster condition.

“Last year, Hawaii experienced highly unusual and severe weather, including hail, a tornado, flooding, and landslides. Critical roads and infrastructure across the state sustained major damage, and this $17 million in federal assistance will go a long way to fund repairs and help get Hawaii moving again,” said Senator Mazie K. Hirono.

“Today’s grant of $17 million will serve as much needed assistance for the state of Hawaii to recover from last year’s tornado and hail storms that caused flooding and damage throughout Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Molokai,” said Senator Schatz, member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “This demonstrates the value of teamwork. From President Obama to Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood to the Congressional delegation to the State administration, everyone came through and the result is receiving $17 million for critical transportation needs.”

“Kauai and Maui experienced significant hardship following last year’s devastating rains, including destroyed roads, contaminated drinking water, and damaged homes,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. “This $17 million federal grant will be a strong first step toward fixing our highways and getting people back to their normal routines.”

For more information, please visit: http://grants.ost.dot.gov/public/ViewMessage.cfm?MsgID=v99byehukd


Congresswoman Hirono Introduces Resolution Honoring Mother Marianne of Molokai

Congresswoman Hirono Introduces Resolution Honoring Mother Marianne of Molokai

Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono today was joined by Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa , and two Republicans, Congressman Richard Hanna (NY-24) and Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-25) in introducing a House Resolution honoring Mother Marianne Cope for her life’s legacy of compassionate care and dedication to those she served at the Hansen’s disease settlement at Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai.



Video: U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono Rallies East Hawaii Voters at Big Island Bus Stop Tour

Big Island of Hawaii’s Democratic contingency took part in an East Hawaii Bus Stop tour today starting at Laupahoehoe Community Charter School and ending at Auntie Sally’s Luau in Hilo today.

I took the following pictures at HAAS Community Charter School in Pahoa today on their third stop of the tour.

Unfortunately Governor Abercrombie and Democratic Candidate Tulsi Gabbard were unable to make the event, however, U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono had this to say at the rally:


East Hawaii Democratic Candidates Bus Stop Tour

Come join your Democratic Candidates on Friday, October 26th as they travel around East Hawaii stopping off at four locations throughout the day and having rally’s.


Candidates scheduled to be on the bus are:

  • Governor Neil Abercrombie
  • Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz
  • Mazie Hirono
  • Tulsi Gabbard
  • Malama Solomon
  • Gil Kahele
  • Russell Ruderman
  • Josh Green
  • Mark Nakashima
  • Clift Tsuji
  • Faye Hanohano
  • Richard Onishi

The schedule for the “Bus Stop Tour” i:

  1. 9:30am- 11:00am Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School – Band Room
  2. 11:30am -1:30pm  North Hawaii Educational Center in Honoka’a
  3. 3:15pm – 4:45pm  Hawai’i Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School in Pahoa
  4. 5:30pm – 7:30pm Aunty Sally’s in Hilo

Rally with your Representatives and Rock the Vote!


Hirono, Hanabusa and Gabbard Honor Life and Legacy of Patsy T. Mink

One decade ago today, the people of Hawaii and the nation mourned the passing of a devoted champion for equality, fairness and social justice. The Honorable Patsy T. Mink, known throughout her career of public service as a thoughtful and tenacious legislator, passed away on September 28, 2002. On this 10th anniversary of her passing, Patsy Mink’s life and legacy were remembered today by several Hawaii leaders, including Mazie Hirono, Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard at a gathering at Ala Wai Community Park softball field.

Tulsi Gabbard, Mazie Hirono and Colleen Hanabusa pay their respects to Patsy Mink

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Mazie Hirono said, “Patsy’s lifetime of accomplishments paved the way for women to have opportunities that she herself never had. Patsy was my friend and a continuing inspiration. In the time we spent together, we agreed to never give up and to always keep fighting for what was right. I will continue to work hard to build on her legacy by advancing our shared principals of equality, fairness and opportunity for all, especially for women, both in Hawaii and across the United States. We will continue to focus on expanding the possibilities for girls and women for generations to come.”

Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa said, “Patsy Mink led the way for many successful women by being willing to stand up and take on the challenges of her time. It’s easy today to forget the world women faced while Patsy was envisioning her own future. But she never backed down, and all Americans have benefitted from her courage. Women in government, in business, in sports, and in their lives can now walk a path set for them by Patsy Takemoto Mink. I am proud to celebrate her life, to continue on her mission in Congress, and to encourage others to find inspiration in her example.”

Tulsi Gabbard, Democratic nominee for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, said, “I too am proud to honor the legacy of Patsy Mink on the 10th anniversary of her passing. She was a trailblazer who accomplished so much that made Hawaii proud, starting with Title IX. Patsy was the first woman elected to Congress from Hawaii.  She was the first Asian American to seek the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party as an anti-war candidate.  If elected to the seat she represented from Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, I will do my very best to uphold the legacy she left behind, and continue to fight for the people, including issues Patsy cared deeply about, such as legislation  impacting women, and the military conflicts that continue to claim the lives of Americans.”

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, better known as Title IX, the federal law that protects students from gender discrimination in federally supported education programs and activities.

If elected to Congress, Hirono, Hanabusa and Gabbard are respectively committed to building upon Mink’s achievements and accomplishments in education as well as other areas where gender discrimination still exists.

Hirono Endorsed by International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers Local 121

Today, U.S. Democratic Senate nominee Mazie Hirono welcomed the endorsement of Local Union 121 of the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE).  IFPTE Local 121, a prominent alliance of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard engineers, scientists and technical employees, represents 1,300 island members and their families.

“Honoring Senator Daniel Kahikina Akaka today–mahalo to a man who represents the best of Hawaii: the embodiment of love and aloha, what we all aspire to be.”

“It has unfortunately become fashionable in Washington to attack Federal Employee pay, pensions and jobs.  Everything from pay freezes and pension cuts to hiring freezes and reductions in force are being proposed by members in Congress, particularly in the U.S. House,” said Jamie Kobayakawa, President of IFPTE Local 121.“Fortunately for our IFPTE Local 121 members, Congresswoman Mazie Hirono has fought against all of those attacks.  She has stood firm in support of Federal Employees, and for the health of our Federal Agencies, Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, NAVFAC and DLA, in Hawaii.  IFPTE Local 121 members and Federal Employees throughout our Aloha State and our country need Congresswoman Mazie Hirono in the United States Senate.”

Hirono, honored to have received the IFPTE Local 121’s endorsement, said, “Mahalo to the members of IFPTE for endorsing my candidacy for U.S. Senate.  The crucial work that the men and women of Local 121 perform at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard keeps our Navy strong and efficient, and it is essential to the security of our nation.  That is why I have always sought to ensure that they have adequate resources to perform their jobs.”

Congresswoman Hirono Calls for National Renewable Energy and Efficiency Standard

Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono rallied energy leaders at the Asia-Pacific Clean Energy Summit in Honolulu.

She wants more accountability from politicians in Washington who are holding back our clean energy future and support a national energy policy modeled on the clean energy successes of the U.S. military by instituting a national renewable energy and efficiency standard.


Congresswoman Hirono delivered her keynote speech on August 15, the last day of the summit

Mazie Hirono Invites the Public to Opening of East Hawaii Campaign Headquarters

U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, candidate for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka, announces the opening of her Mazie for Hawaii – East Hawaii Campaign Headquarters at 230 Kekuanaoa St in Hilo. The office is next to the Hilo Shopping Center, across the former Island Chevrolet repair shop.

“I want to personally invite you to visit me and see the headquarters during our Grand Opening on Sunday, July 8 from 1 to 3 p.m.,” Hirono said. “Come talk story while enjoying refreshments and the fellowship of those who live in your community.”

Congresswoman Hirono has served three terms at U.S. Representative for rural Oahu and the neighbor islands, voting in support of President Obama’s stimulus packages and the Affordable Care Act, for retaining Social Security and Medicare as well as civil rights, education and social services for the public, and in support of the most recent medical marijuana federal legislation. She has consistently voted for bringing U.S. troops home from war zones in the Middle East while supporting funding for veteran services. And she was one of Hawaii’s first lawmakers to support same-sex unions and legal civil rights.

Organizations endorsing Hirono as a strong voice for workers and the candidate with the best chance of keeping Hawaii’s open Senate seat in Democratic hands include Americans for Democratic Action, Council for a Livable World, the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, Voices for Progress PAC, National Women’s Political Caucus, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Equality Hawaii Action Fund, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the Hawaii AFL-CIO, Hawaii Carpenters Union, Hawaii Fire Fighters Assoc., Hawaii State Teachers Assoc., Hawaii Government Employees Assoc., the ILWU, Asian American Action Fund, the Feminist Majority, and the Seafarers International, among others.

More Meet and Greets Planned for Congresswoman Mazie Hirono Set for East Hawaii

This weekend, the public is invited to meet Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, candidate for the U.S. Senate seat of the retiring Senator Daniel Akaka. She will be in Hilo on Saturday, June 23, for a noon gathering at the Hilo Hongwanji Mission, 457 Manono St., directly across Manono MiniMart. On Sunday morning, she will be at the Volcano Farmers’ Market at Cooper Center, then attend a coffee hour at 9 a.m. at Kilauea Lodge in Volcano Village.

Rep. Hirono will visit the Maku’u Farmers’ Market off Hwy. 130 around lunchtime Sunday before meeting with the public at a 2 p.m. coffee hour at the Longhouse in Nanawale Estates in lower Puna.

There is a playground for keiki and lots of parking at the Nanawale Longhouse, located at the 4-way stop on Nanawale Boulevard. Call 965-8945 for further information.