WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, today rushed to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to fend off a surprise effort by Republicans to strip funding for an important Native Hawaiian housing program during consideration of the Transportation – Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill.

“Clearly, there is now a concerted and persistent attack by some Republicans in Congress on Native Hawaiian programs. This is very troubling. I will challenge attacks of this sort on programs that benefit the people of Hawai’i, including Native Hawaiians,” said Congresswoman Hirono.

Speaking on the House floor, Congresswoman Hirono observed that Native Hawaiians experience significant housing problems related to affordability, overcrowding and structural inadequacy. “Nineteen thousand individuals remain on a waiting list for leases, and many of our elderly, our kapuna, have died waiting for the dream of homeownership,” she said. Congresswoman Hirono cited the example of Frances Segundo, whose father first applied for Hawaiian Home Lands in 1949. Her father passed away two years ago, and she claimed the lease awarded for the second phase of a Department of Hawaiian Home Lands project in Kapolei in 2006 – 57 years after her father had applied.

Today the House voted overwhelmingly to defeat an amendment proposed by a Republican that would have eliminated all funding for the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant. The block grant helps provide affordable housing for Native Hawaiian families who are eligible to reside on Hawaiian Home Lands, which were established in trust by the United States in 1921 under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.

Congresswoman Hirono noted that today’s attempt to strip funding for Native Hawaiians follows similar Republican attempts during this Congress, including an earlier failed challenge to the previously uncontroversial Native Hawaiian Housing Act and an attempt last week to strike education funds for Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians in the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill.

Congresswoman Hirono added, “America has a moral and legal obligation to support programs that provide housing, education and other important services for Native Hawaiians. Helping Native Hawaiians achieve and advance is in the best interest of all the people of Hawai’i and indeed our nation. I will continue to be a strong advocate on behalf of Native Hawaiians and all Hawaiians.”

”’Michael Levin is the Communications Director for Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono (HI-2. See more at http://hirono.house.gov/email_signup.html”’

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