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As our nation and Hawai‘i recover from the turbulent economic times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am focused in Congress on meeting the immediate challenges before us while investing in a more sustainable and prosperous future. I am fighting to address inflation and cost-of-living concerns that affect all of us in Hawai‘i, and I am working to secure federal investment to bring new industries to Hawai‘i and diversify the main economic drivers to create good paying jobs at home so our keiki can live and thrive in our Hawai‘i. Finally, I am still committed to making sure the federal government helps our state deal with the economic fallout from COVID-19. 

Supply Chains and Cost-of-Living

The current supply chain disruptions, which has been responsible for stock shortages and accelerating inflation, are extremely concerning and must be addressed. To this end, I cosigned a letter asking the Federal Maritime Commission to address severe price-gouging in shipping costs and anti-competitive business practices that have resulted in shipping price increases and delays. I also cosponsored H.R. 3848, the Critical Supply Chain Commission Act, which looks to develop a plan to strengthen American manufacturing supply chain resilience and reduce our dependence on other countries.

My three bills would modernize the Jones Act for Hawai'i and other U.S. noncontiguous areas (Alaska and the island territories). They would (1) exempt such locales from the Jones Act while ensuring that any company that enters the U.S. domestic shipping market complies fully with U.S. law, including labor and environmental requirements (H.R. 298, the Noncontiguous Shipping Relief Act); (2) limit the rates that Jones Act carriers can charge to within 10 percent of comparable international rates (H.R. 299, the Noncontiguous Shipping Reasonable Rate Act); and (3) exempt noncontiguous areas from the Jones Act if a duopoly or monopoly exists (H.R. 300, the Noncontiguous Shipping Competition Act).

I will prioritize these bills and continue to lead this conversation in Congress about the practical effect of the Jones Act on our Hawai'i and ways to provide relief to other noncontiguous areas.

Helping Small Businesses

Small businesses remain the lifeblood of Hawai‘i. Our state has over 130,000 small businesses—that’s about 1 small business for every 11 people. While the average small business in Hawai‘i employs just 12 people, as a whole, Hawaii’s small businesses still employ a majority of our workforce.

In Congress, I have been an advocate for small business assistance programs that help our state. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have secured billions of dollars for the key small business assistance programs managed by the Small Business Administration (SBA). For example, for Fiscal Year 2021 my Committee provided the SBA’s Entrepreneurial Development Programs $272 million, an increase of $11 million above the prior year levels.

Given the rich ethnic diversity in Hawai‘i, minority-based programs are particularly important to Hawai‘i. Almost 93% of small businesses in Hawai‘i are minority-owned. They depend on and have received great benefit from programs such as the 8(a) Business Development program and the HUBZone program, which help provide a level playing field for small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged people and historically underutilized business zones. I am focused on ensuring the continuation and expansion of these programs to empower some of our nation’s under-represented populations that are the true drivers of Hawaii’s small businesses.

Diversifying Our Economy

The COVID-19 pandemic and other periods of economic uncertainty, such as the 2008 financial crisis and 9/11, illustrate how reliant Hawaii’s economy is on tourism and vulnerable it is to a recession. I have long supported developing a technology industry in Hawai‘i to help diversify our economy. The technology sector provides high-paying jobs that are not at the mercy of high export shipping costs, and the federal defense presence in Hawai‘i offers technology and 8(a) startups an excellent partner. To that end, I have been an advocate for the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer program, which helps technology startups get federal contracts. I have also been looking for different avenues to close the digital divide and ensure that Hawai‘i residents have access to affordable internet and have the education they need to ensure that Hawai‘i and our keiki remain competitive in our 21st-century economy.

Agriculture, which is Hawaii’s third-largest industry, is at a critical junction but can also help ensure a diversified economy for our state and help Hawai‘i achieve its goal to double local food production by 2030. I will continue to leverage my position on the House Appropriations Committee to help expand local food production and fund research and agricultural programs that benefit the specialty crops found in our Hawai‘i. It can also help Hawai‘i become more self-sufficient.

Economic Response to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about one of the worst economic downturns in a generation. Hawaii’s unemployment rate jumped from the lowest in the nation at 2.4% in March 2020 to nearly 12% just one month later with more than one-third of Hawaii’s labor force filing unemployment claims by April. Even today, Hawai‘i continues to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

That is why in March 2021 I voted for the final version of $2 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. It continues to provide desperately needed assistance to help our nation and Hawai‘i weather the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. From stepping up our vaccination efforts for our kupuna and essential workers, getting our keiki safely back to school, assisting our state and local governments with crippling revenue shortfalls, helping struggling small businesses and their employees, to providing much-needed assistance to many of our fellow citizens and ‘ohana, the American Rescue Plan Act embraces our duty to act.

Furthermore, during the 116th Congress (2019-2021), I voted for every COVID-19 assistance bill brought before and passed by the full U.S. House. Many of these bills became public law and brought billions of dollars to Hawai‘i, providing a critical lifeline for many in Hawai‘i. Here is a brief timeline of the relief bills that the House passed into law:

  • The first COVID-19 measure, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, immediately provided $8.3 billion in federal funding to rapidly accelerate the development and procurement of a COVID-19 vaccine and other medical supplies and provide aid to state and local governments and health care providers.

  • The roughly $200-300 billion Families First Coronavirus Response Act sought to address the severe impacts of COVID-19 on the personal health, safety and financial security of Americans. It supported paid leave for small businesses, ensured free COVID-19 testing, provided stronger unemployment benefits, expanded food assistance for vulnerable children and families, protected front-line health workers and delivered additional aid to help stabilize state and municipal government operations.

  • In March 2020, Congress enacted the $2.1 trillion CARES Act, which focused on meeting the crisis head-on by providing $1,200 direct payments to most Americans, created the Paycheck Protection Program to support more than 24,000 small businesses in Hawai‘i, provided state and local governments in Hawai‘i with $1.25 billion to address local needs and created enhanced unemployment benefits for those who were out of work.

  • In April 2020, the $484 billion Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act was enacted into law and included an additional $320 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program plus funding for hospitals and COVID-19 testing.

  • Lastly, Congress passed a $900 billion COVID-19 emergency relief package (H.R. 133) in December 2020, which continues to provide individuals, communities and businesses with the resources they need to deal with the public health, economic and social crises resulting from the pandemic. Most notably, it provided most Americans with an additional $600 direct payment, revitalized small business assistance program and allocated additional funding toward vaccine distribution.


    Supply Chains and Cost-of-Living