or Login to see your representatives.

Access Candidates' and Representatives' Biographies, Voting Records, Interest Group Ratings, Issue Positions, Public Statements, and Campaign Finances

Simply enter your zip code above to get to all of your candidates and representatives, or enter a name. Then, just click on the person you are interested in, and you can navigate to the categories of information we track for them.

Public Statements

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. HIRONO. Mr. President, I rise today to speak in support of S. 1243, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for 2014. I wish to thank Senators Murray and Collins as well as Senators Mikulski and Shelby for their hard work. The bill before us reflects the bipartisan agreement that funding our Nation's transportation and housing infrastructure is vital to creating jobs and supporting strong communities.

I wish to thank the committee for funding programs that support projects that are especially crucial for my home State of Hawaii.

First, the committee's bill provides nearly $2 billion for capital improvement grants which support transit projects across the country. Especially important for Hawaii is Honolulu's rail transit project which, when completed, will provide much needed relief for Oahu's commuters. Studies have shown that during the morning peak period, the average travel time from East Kapolei to Honolulu is 89 minutes--89 minutes for a 17-mile drive. The rail will turn that into a 40-minute ride above traffic. The project is estimated to remove roughly 40,000 cars from Oahu's congested roadways, providing relief for buses and other surface public transportation services.

While the rail project is a crucial step forward for developing Hawaii's most populous island, it is the committee's support for Hawaii's indigenous people for which I especially extend my thanks. The committee's funding of both the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant and the 184A Loan Guarantee Program will help our Nation continue fulfilling its trust obligations to Native Hawaiians.

In 2010, the American Community Survey reported that 27.2 percent of Native Hawaiians in Hawaii live in overcrowded conditions, compared to 8.5 percent of Hawaii's total population. In addition, the overall cost of living in Hawaii is almost 50 percent higher than the United States average, and housing costs are almost 150 percent higher. Coupled with these costs is the fact that 18 percent of Native Hawaiians live in poverty.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The time of the majority has expired.

Ms. HIRONO. I ask unanimous consent for an additional 5 minutes.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Ms. HIRONO. Thank you, Mr. President.

Congress created the Hawaiian Home Lands trust to provide housing and settlement opportunities for Native Hawaiians. However, as the statistics I just laid out show, this indigenous population continues to struggle with finding affordable quality housing in their place of origin.

That is why the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant, or NHHBG, is so important. These funds can be used for a variety of initiatives. For example, the current wait list for access to housing on homestead land is long and continues to grow. Funding the NHHBG helps the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to continue developing lands to meet the housing needs of those on the wait list as well as future beneficiaries, allowing the Department to effectively administer this trust responsibly.

The 184A Program is another important tool for assisting Native Hawaiians in securing homes on homesteads--lands they cannot own. As I have mentioned, the cost of living--especially housing--in Hawaii is among the highest in the country. On top of saving up the cost of a downpayment for a mortgage, there is the tricky task of securing a mortgage for a home without ownership of the land beneath it. This has proved problematic not only for Native Hawaiians but also Native Americans and Alaska Natives. The 184A Loan Guarantee Program helps get Hawaiians onto homesteads by providing a guarantee for lenders who are unfamiliar with the Hawaiian homes program.

I also wish to thank the committee for supporting the Essential Air Services Program. Being an island State, Hawaii is uniquely affected by any changes to air transportation policy. For us, driving between counties is not an option. So air service is, for all intents and purposes, the only way to get from one island to another.

There is a population in Hawaii that uniquely demonstrates the reason for the Essential Air Service Program: the residents of Kalaupapa. Kalaupapa is an isolated peninsula on the island of Molokai. Beginning in 1966, this area was used as an exile for Hansen's disease patients. This practice continued until a quarantine of the area was finally lifted in 1969. It was precisely because of Kalaupapa's remoteness and isolation that it was selected to serve this function for Hansen's disease patients.

There are Hansen's disease patients who still reside in Kalaupapa. Their only option for getting in and out of the area for medical treatment, or to visit family and friends, is flying. Maintaining proper funding for the Essential Air Service Program directly translates into assuring continued access for the people of Kalaupapa to other communities and the services they need.

The committee's bill also provides appropriate levels of funding for larger national programs such as the Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG. Certainly, Hawaii has been able to put CDBG funds to good use, and agencies across the country rely on this essential block grant funding to continue meeting the needs of their most vulnerable populations.

The HOME Investment Partnerships Program is yet another example where the funding level in the Senate's bill is warranted. If Hawaii is any indication, HOME funds move out the door so quickly that many subgrantees with equally worthwhile projects are left waiting for the next fiscal cycle to compete.

The support for CDBG, HOME, and other programs in the bill provides communities across the country with the means to provide safe, affordable housing for the least fortunate, the elderly, and others. However, as the wide support for these programs demonstrates, there is more need in our communities than there are resources. Since the sequester has taken effect, things have only gotten harder for those who are struggling the most. Every day it seems we hear about housing vouchers being frozen or rescinded or about how elderly or support services are being cut back or about how the lines for limited public housing grow as people who have been out of work for too long exhaust their savings. For many of the people who rely on these programs, there is nowhere else to turn.

This bill doesn't fix all of the problems caused by the sequester, nor does it fully address the critical needs to create jobs. However, it is a bipartisan step forward that makes positive progress in all of these areas. Perhaps it will give us some momentum in tackling those big challenges our Nation faces in a more comprehensive way.

I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. HIRONO. Thank you, Mr. President.

Congress created the Hawaiian Home Lands trust to provide housing and settlement opportunities for Native Hawaiians. However, as the statistics I just laid out show, this indigenous population continues to struggle with finding affordable quality housing in their place of origin.

That is why the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant, or NHHBG, is so important. These funds can be used for a variety of initiatives. For example, the current wait list for access to housing on homestead land is long and continues to grow. Funding the NHHBG helps the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to continue developing lands to meet the housing needs of those on the wait list as well as future beneficiaries, allowing the Department to effectively administer this trust responsibly.

The 184A Program is another important tool for assisting Native Hawaiians in securing homes on homesteads--lands they cannot own. As I have mentioned, the cost of living--especially housing--in Hawaii is among the highest in the country. On top of saving up the cost of a downpayment for a mortgage, there is the tricky task of securing a mortgage for a home without ownership of the land beneath it. This has proved problematic not only for Native Hawaiians but also Native Americans and Alaska Natives. The 184A Loan Guarantee Program helps get Hawaiians onto homesteads by providing a guarantee for lenders who are unfamiliar with the Hawaiian homes program.

I also wish to thank the committee for supporting the Essential Air Services Program. Being an island State, Hawaii is uniquely affected by any changes to air transportation policy. For us, driving between counties is not an option. So air service is, for all intents and purposes, the only way to get from one island to another.

There is a population in Hawaii that uniquely demonstrates the reason for the Essential Air Service Program: the residents of Kalaupapa. Kalaupapa is an isolated peninsula on the island of Molokai. Beginning in 1966, this area was used as an exile for Hansen's disease patients. This practice continued until a quarantine of the area was finally lifted in 1969. It was precisely because of Kalaupapa's remoteness and isolation that it was selected to serve this function for Hansen's disease patients.

There are Hansen's disease patients who still reside in Kalaupapa. Their only option for getting in and out of the area for medical treatment, or to visit family and friends, is flying. Maintaining proper funding for the Essential Air Service Program directly translates into assuring continued access for the people of Kalaupapa to other communities and the services they need.

The committee's bill also provides appropriate levels of funding for larger national programs such as the Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG. Certainly, Hawaii has been able to put CDBG funds to good use, and agencies across the country rely on this essential block grant funding to continue meeting the needs of their most vulnerable populations.

The HOME Investment Partnerships Program is yet another example where the funding level in the Senate's bill is warranted. If Hawaii is any indication, HOME funds move out the door so quickly that many subgrantees with equally worthwhile projects are left waiting for the next fiscal cycle to compete.

The support for CDBG, HOME, and other programs in the bill provides communities across the country with the means to provide safe, affordable housing for the least fortunate, the elderly, and others. However, as the wide support for these programs demonstrates, there is more need in our communities than there are resources. Since the sequester has taken effect, things have only gotten harder for those who are struggling the most. Every day it seems we hear about housing vouchers being frozen or rescinded or about how elderly or support services are being cut back or about how the lines for limited public housing grow as people who have been out of work for too long exhaust their savings. For many of the people who rely on these programs, there is nowhere else to turn.

This bill doesn't fix all of the problems caused by the sequester, nor does it fully address the critical needs to create jobs. However, it is a bipartisan step forward that makes positive progress in all of these areas. Perhaps it will give us some momentum in tackling those big challenges our Nation faces in a more comprehensive way.

I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


Source:
Back to top