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Federal funds could boost initiatives for Maui County

OUR COUNTY

From replacing bridges to fighting crime to providing services for youth and senior citizens, federal money funds a variety of initiatives that help residents of our islands.

Federal funding also provides critical relief for residents and businesses when they suffer damage and harm from disasters such as hurricanes, storms, flooding and drought.

In the 2023 fiscal year, which ends in June, federal funding totaled more than $69 million, representing about 6.5 percent of the more than $1 billion budget for the County of Maui.

The benefits of federal funding were at the forefront last week when I attended Hawai’i on the Hill in Washington, D.C. More than 1,000 people, including local business leaders and state, county and federal officials, participated in the annual event focused on the importance of supporting Hawai’i-owned businesses.

Those represented at the Taste of Hawai’i event included Maui County companies such as Hapa Company, Maui Chili Chili Oil, Maui Coffee Roasters, Maui Gold Pineapple, Maui Brewing Co., Maui Kuia Estate Chocolate, Maui Nui Venison Hawaii, Uncle Louie’s Sausage, Ono Loa and Maui Rainbow Tea.

The event provided an opportunity to meet with Hawai’i congressional leaders — U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono and U.S. Reps. Ed Case and Jill Tokuda — and to talk with them about Maui County priorities.

The issues we discussed reflect the uniqueness of our county and the need for federal funding to support Moloka’i and Lana’i residents with one of their greatest concerns — interisland transportation. The ability to readily travel from remote communities to other islands affects not only the connections among families but also medical care and operations of businesses.

We also discussed with Hawai’i’s congressional delegation the possibilities of federal funding for initiatives that tie into our administration’s focus on infrastructure (including broadband), agriculture, economic diversification and affordable housing. It was a tremendous opportunity to be able to bring the needs of our county to the nation’s capital and to speak directly with members of our congressional delegation.

Federal funding provides numerous benefits to our county, including housing assistance for low- and moderate-income residents and services including training for workers laid off from previous jobs. Federal grant funding has gone toward the installation of traffic signals, road reconstruction and rehabilitation, transportation planning and the Maui Bus. The money also has helped pay for fire trucks and rescue watercraft in Hana and on Moloka’i.

Other federal grants go to programs addressing domestic violence, cybercrime, traffic safety and coastal zone management. Federal grants and loans help us support small businesses, which contribute to economic growth in our community. This support is invaluable as we work to provide services and improve the quality of life for our residents.

In the months ahead, we will continue to explore ways to work with our federal partners to strengthen our community and improve the well-being of our residents.

* Our County, a column from Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen Jr. and his administration, discusses county issues and activities of county government. It alternates on Saturdays with “Council’s 3 Minutes.”

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