(BIVN) – President Trump has signed into law the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package passed by last week. U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaiʻi) says the package includes at least $1.7 billion in funding for Hawai‘i.
“Help is on the way,” Sen. Schatz wrote in a statement on Sunday night. “With this bill now signed into law, at least $1.7 billion will now flow to Hawai‘i to help those who’ve lost their job or can’t make rent. It will provide more money for businesses, and give our state, hospitals, and health care providers more resources to distribute the vaccine and fight this pandemic. While it’s not enough, and we still have more work to do, this will provide help immediately.”
Schatz’s office presents a detailed explanation of all that the relief bill covers on his website.
President Trump delayed signing the package over an objection to the amount of money going to people in the form of direct cash payments, which stands at $600 for individuals plus $600 per child.
“As President, I have told Congress that I want far less wasteful spending and more money going to the American people in the form of $2,000 checks per adult and $600 per child,” Trump wrote on December 27. “I will sign the Omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed. I will send back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill,” the President stated.
President Trump noted that the U.S. House on Monday will vote to increase payments to individuals from $600 to $2,000. “Therefore, a family of four would receive $5,200,” Trump said. “Additionally, Congress has promised that Section 230, which so unfairly benefits Big Tech at the expense of the American people, will be reviewed and either be terminated or substantially reformed. Likewise, the House and Senate have agreed to focus strongly on the very substantial voter fraud which took place in the November 3 Presidential election. The Senate will start the process for a vote that increases checks to $2,000, repeals Section 230, and starts an investigation into voter fraud.”
On Monday, U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaiʻi) released a statement on the COVID relief package, noting how she “successfully advocated for education programs in the emergency coronavirus relief bill that will support K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and early childhood programs as they respond to COVID-19.”
The bill also includes provisions from Senator Hirono’s Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act to strengthen and expand the federal Pell Grant program and improve financial aid for students, her office reported.
“Students and educators in Hawaii and elsewhere need support as they continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. This legislation includes provisions I have worked on to strengthen and expand the federal Pell Grant program, which will improve college affordability for lower income students. It also includes funding to support K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and early childhood providers,” Senator Hirono said. “While this bill provides much-needed funding, the scope of this pandemic means that we will need to take further action, and I stand ready to work with my colleagues to provide additional investments in education and child care.”
The legislation includes the following funding for education priorities, noting “the Hawaii-specific estimates below were calculated by the Congressional Research Service using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Education”:
- $183.6 million for Hawaii schools to address the pandemic’s consequences on K-12 schools, with flexibility to address learning loss for at-risk and marginalized students through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF). The legislation provides $54.3 billion in total funding for the ESSERF, and includes flexibility for schools to address learning loss in low-income students, children with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care. In October, Senator Hirono introduced the Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act, which provides funding for states, school districts, teachers, school leaders, and others to address learning loss due to COVID-19. She also cosponsored the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (CCCERA), which included $175 billion for the ESSERF, and requirements to measure and address learning loss.
- $14.2 million for Hawaii to support K-12 schools, colleges and universities, early childhood programs, and other programs through the Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEERF). The legislation provides $4.1 billion in total funding for the GEERF, which states can use to support students—including through innovation grants. CCCERA included $33 billion for the GEERF.
- E-Rate: $3.2 billion to expand broadband connectivity for teachers and students across the country.
- $56.8 million to provide support for institutions of higher education in Hawaii and their students through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). The legislation provides $23.0 billion in total funding for the HEERF.
- Federal Pell Grant Program: Several parts of Senator Hirono’s Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act to strengthen and expand the Pell Grant program were included in the end-of-year package, including provisions to restore eligibility for incarcerated individuals, students who have been defrauded, and students with drug-related offenses, raise the “auto-zero” threshold, and increase the income protection allowance—improving the program for students. Earlier this year, Senator Hirono led a letter with 43 Senate colleagues requesting expanded eligibility and support for the Pell Grant program in Fiscal Year 2021.
- Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs): Nationally, the bill included $1.7 billion for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges (TCUs), and other MSIs—including Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions like the University of Hawaii. Earlier this year, Senator Hirono led a letter with 18 colleagues requesting strong and continued support for HBCUs, TCUs, and other MSIs in Fiscal Year 2021.
- $34.1 million for Hawaii through the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The total program funding is set at $10 billion for child care providers to promote healthy and safe learning environments for workers, students, and families, and to provide financial assistance for low-income families through CCDBG. Earlier this year, Senator Hirono led a letter with Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and 39 other colleagues, requesting strong support for early childhood programs, including CCDBG, Head Start/Early Head Start programs, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act early childhood services, and Preschool Development Grants in Fiscal Year 2021.