As I write you my quarterly report today, October 2nd, from Capitol Hill:
(1) President and Mrs. Trump have just contracted COVID-19
(2) The national public health, economic and social devastation of this pandemic continue while we seek to contain the virus and reopen our economy at home.
(3) My U.S. House has again passed a second major federal emergency assistance package but the U.S. Senate and Administration have thus far not agreed.
(4) Deep divisions in Washington D.C. and throughout our country are only worsening with the general election just 31 days away.
It is easy to get discouraged, but that is just not an option. As elected officials we owe our constituents our full commitment to finding the best path forward and through these difficult times.
My mission remains to (1) contribute to strong national leadership on the critical issues we face, whether COVID-19 or the many others that we faced before this pandemic and will still face after, (2) make sure that our federal government listens to our concerns and addresses or needs, and (3) help all those I serve with your own questions and needs.
As always, I believe it is critical to doing my job that I stay in very close contact with all of the constituents and communities I serve throughout Hawaii’s First Congressional District. Our Neighborhoods Boards and you are my full partners in our mutual efforts, and as always, I want to update you on my efforts and hear back from you.
These are just a few of the issues on my mind currently that I want to share with you:
COVID-19 FEDERAL EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE UPDATE
The $3 trillion CARES Act federal emergency assistance package Congress passed and the President signed back in March was absolutely essential to seeing us through the first months of the COVID-19 crisis. But it was clear almost as soon as CARES was enacted that at least a second major package would be required as the needs were so great.
In May, almost five months ago, my U.S. House of Representatives did so in passing the HEROES Act, another $3 trillion emergency assistance package to provide desperately needed additional assistance to our health care providers and first responders, state and county governments, small businesses, severely impacted industries like travel and tourism, our unemployed, and residents and your families. For months after, the Senate and Administration did not consider HEROES because many did not believe further assistance was necessary. When it became so clear that was not true, some other proposals were offered which were just plain insufficient.
In the last few weeks there have been more serious negotiations toward a compromise measure that could pass Congress and be signed by the President. But pending all that and to show our full understanding of the critical need for further assistance and willingness to compromise to get there, the U.S. House yesterday passed our “HEROES 2.0” proposal for $2.2 trillion in further assistance including major support for many of our most needy Hawai’i communities. I have some hope that all this could produce a next emergency assistance package shortly.
Throughout this crisis my Capitol Hill and Honolulu offices have continued open (mostly remotely) with my staff and I on the job and working overtime to assist our state, our communities, and you through this terrible crisis. Information on COVID-19, ranging from the latest from our national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our Hawaii Department of Health, along with federal assistance, and my own efforts, as well as how to contact me, is on my official web page at https://case.house.gov/coronavirus/. As to the developments regarding the virus itself, my web page features the latest updates by the CDC so that you can keep up with the latest on COVID-19 both in our country and around the world.
GOOD NEWS: HAWAI’I DOES WELL IN RESPONDING TO CENSUS 2020
Aside from COVID-19, one of the most important efforts for all of us this year is the once-every-ten-years 2020 Census. The Census is critical because not only must we know how many and who we are to govern wisely, but the Census largely determines each state’s share of federal funding for many programs. Here is my recent article in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on the importance of the Census.
Our effort to “shape our future” and obtain the best count for Hawai’i ever was "all hands on deck" as I joined with partners including my colleagues on our Hawai’i Congressional delegation, state, local and neighborhood leaders including your Boards, business, community, faith, non-profit and other groups and so many residents to get the word out. I want to give a special shout-out to Sharlette Poe, also Chair of the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board, who led a great Hawai’i coordination and outreach team for the Census.
At last check, Hawai’i had among the highest overall response rates in the country! But, there’s still time for anyone who hasn’t yet self-responded by mail, phone or internet to do so easily; just go to www.my2020census.gov.
PUBLIC FINALLY GETS TO WEIGH IN ON TOUR HELICOPTER/SMALL AIRCRAFT SAFETY AND COMMUNITY DISRUPTION CONCERNS
Over the past year-plus, the great majority of O’ahu Neighborhood Boards have joined me by resolution in expressing our widespread and growing concerns and those of our communities and residents with tour helicopter and small aircraft safety and community disruption. For virtually all of that period, most of the tour helicopter and small; aircraft industry has discounted and ignored our concerns and has declined any public meetings. My very real concern has been and remains that once they can fly again, they will simply resume and in fact continue to try to expand the same operations in the same way that caused our concerns to start with.
Finally, in September the Hawaii Air Tour Noise and Safety Task Force consisting of the industry and federal, state and county government officials convened two public Zoom remote meetings in September. While the Task Force tried to limit the scope of the meetings to impacts on the specific communities of Pear City and Kailua, many citizens from across the state participated to voice their concerns. I participated in and testified personally at both meetings, noting that it is my hope that these sessions will be more than just "the appearance of listening to safety and community disruption concerns" and "if there is a sincere recognition of these concerns and commitment to change assumptions and practices, then some productive discussions are possible."
The Task Force promises but has not yet scheduled further meetings. Your personal participation is needed in order to be sure the Task Force doesn’t try to say that these are just isolated minority concerns. The record is open here for your own comment and participation until December 1, 2020.
Meanwhile the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is the agency responsible for regulation uses of the nation’s airspace, has set up a new way for the public to register our noise complaints directly. The FAA’s complaint website is here.
To be honest, I’m skeptical as throughout our entire country the FAA has not been sensitive to or addressed in any meaningful way widespread and growing citizen noise complaints. But I do credit the FAA with setting up a simplified process and urge you to register your concerns there.
TAKING THE LEAD IN RECOVERING TRAVEL AND TOURISM NATIONWIDE
We all know that travel and tourism, from hotels to airlines, ground transportation restaurants, attractions, entertainment, products and much more, is Hawaii’s number one industry, employing directly more than 200,000 of our neighbors and generating major revenues to our state and counties to provide crucial public services. We also are all painfully aware that no industry and the businesses (mostly small businesses) and residents and families that rely on it have been more severely impacted by COVID-19 than travel and tourism.
In this we are not alone, as travel and tourism is a major industry for our country, by some counts employing up to one in ten of every American worker. While broader emergency assistance from CARES and HEROES has helped, much more focused and long-term effort by our federal government will be necessary in the years ahead to
This is the focus of a major bipartisan initiative I introduced in the U.S. House yesterday with my colleagues from other major travel and tourism states. Our Visit America Act will mandate a coordinated federal recovery response for travel and tourism across a number of federal programs and efforts, and will give us the structure now lacking in our federal government to advance and fully fund those efforts. Here is more on the Visit America Act .
Again, I deeply appreciate your partnership and want you to know that my office is fully available to you. More information on my initiatives and other efforts can be found on my website at case.house.gov. Please forward this e-newsletter along to your constituents and others, and please share your own input and questions on any matter.
I wish you and yours the very best as we all get through this together.
P.S. Please sign up for my regular e-newsletter here.