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Aloha from Senator Schatz's Office

Aloha from Senator Schatz's Office

May 22, 2024


The Senate unanimously passed a resolution I cosponsored recognizing May as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.  While AANHPI culture is an integral part of everyday life in Hawai‘i, this month is a chance to celebrate the incredible contributions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders across our state and our country.

The Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, also recently passed by the Senate, included several provisions that I wrote.  These provisions will help make air tours in Hawai‘i safer and less noisy as well as help airports across our state become more resilient to disasters. We’re also making meaningful investments to empower the Department of Transportation to advocate on behalf of air travelers more effectively and strengthen consumer protections.

As always, please contact my office in D.C. or Hawai‘i if there is anything we can do. We are here to help.


Brian Schatz
United States Senator

Advocating for Disaster Relief Funding
Senator Schatz called on Congress to pass long-term disaster relief funding for impacted communities across the country, including on Maui and in Vermont. Speaking on the Senate floor, Senator Schatz underscored the need to pass funding for the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program in order to provide survivors with flexible assistance to rebuild their homes, small businesses, and communities over the long-term.

“Disaster survivors are running out of time. They’re running out of money. And they’re running out of patience,” said Senator Schatz. “These people have been to hell and back, enduring the worst horrors of mother nature. Wildfires, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes. They’ve lost loved ones. They’ve lost their homes. They’ve lost their livelihoods. And after all of that, after having their lives totally upended overnight, they’ve been stuck in limbo…for months or even years…waiting for help to arrive.”

Senator Schatz has led efforts to deliver federal disaster relief funding to Hawai‘i and states across the country.  He worked with congressional leaders and bipartisan colleagues to include $16 billion in disaster relief money as part of a short-term spending bill that was signed into law in last September.

Senator Schatz continued, “CDBG-DR serves a simple but essential purpose: it provides survivors with the funding and flexibility to rebuild their homes, small businesses, and communities over the long-term. For over 30 years and in practically every state in the country, the program been a lifeline for people trying to get back on their feet. Yet it’s been a year-and-a-half since Congress last funded CDBG-DR. And in that time, disasters have piled up in every part of the country. Unfortunately, we know more are coming, especially with hurricane season around the corner. And so for Lāhainā and dozens of other communities nationwide, this funding can’t come sooner.”

Video of Senator Schatz's remarks are available here.

Making Air Travel Safer
The U.S. Senate passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2024, which included several provisions authored by Senator Schatz, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The bill contains measures to address air tour noise in Hawai‘i, improve air tour safety, help airports adapt to extreme weather, and establish a Senate-confirmed Assistant Secretary at the Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Specifically, the provisions:

  1. Direct the FAA to participate in the State of Hawai‘i’s air noise and safety task force and recommend ways to reduce the disruption that air tours can cause residents.
  2. Require stronger safety requirements for commercial air tours and helicopter operations through increased FAA oversight, equipment upgrades and flight data monitoring.
  3. Ensure airport projects that would improve resilience to sea level rise and extreme weather are eligible for funding under the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program, which will enable work to make Hawaii’s airports safer in the face of climate change.
  4. Authorize the Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection to be led by a Senate-confirmed Assistant Secretary and supported by $70 million over five years in authorized funding.

Senator Schatz signing the short-term FAA funding extension bill before it was sent to President Biden.

Hawai‘i has the highest number of fatalities from air tour crashes in the nation, totaling over 85 people since the National Transportation Safety Board began keeping records. Senator Schatz originally introduced the Air Tour and Skydiving Safety Improvement Act and the Hawai‘i Air Tour Management Act with the Hawai‘i congressional delegation following multiple fatal helicopter crashes in the state in 2019.  Senator Schatz also previously introduced the Natural Hazard Resilience for Airports Act with Senator Ted Budd (R-N.C.) following concerns that FAA programs were not set up well to allow Hawai‘i’s airports to build resiliently.  Finally, he led six Democrats and worked with consumer protection advocates to introduce the Improved Transportation Consumer Protection Act in the face of worsening airline passenger experiences in recent years.

Committing to Red Hill Long-Term
Senator Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, called on Secretary Austin to commit to investing in long-term support for the land and the people impacted by the Red Hill fuel leak and provide a full detailed accounting of federal spending.

During questioning on the FY25 defense budget request, Senator Schatz asked Secretary Austin, “The thing that the community is working on and thinking about the most is long-term health impacts and long-term environmental impacts and what of the appropriated money that we provided to the Department is allocated for that. What are you planning to do with the remainder of the money as it relates to making sure that none of that petroleum eventually makes its way back into any of those aquifers and that anyone who’s been harmed by ingesting petroleum product, gets taken care of by the Department?”

Secretary Austin responded to Senator Schatz, “Once the defueling was complete, then we stood down the Red Hill Task Force and then stood up a task force that the Navy is now in charge of and is charged with environmental remediation. I've had personal conversations with, both the leader of the task force and most importantly, the Secretary of the Navy, on how important this is. And they are committed to ensuring that that they do the right things to make sure that we get this right going forward. We owe it to the members of the community to ensure that we do, in fact, do this.”

Video of Senator Schatz's full exchange at today's hearing is available here.

In addition to questions to Secretary Austin, Schatz directed questions to General Charles Brown, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the critical national security needs in the Indo-Pacific.

Enforcing Child Labor Laws
Senator Schatz also questioned Acting Labor Department Secretary Julie Su on the FY25 budget request, underscored the urgent need to stop child labor, and called for raising penalties for employers who violate child labor laws. Senator Schatz is the author of the Stop Child Labor Act, bipartisan legislation that would increase maximum fines for child labor violations, establish new criminal penalties, allow victims harmed by violations to file private lawsuits, and encourage collaboration between employers and government to stop child labor violations before they occur.

In questions to Acting Secretary Su, Senator Schatz asked, “I actually want to talk to you about an area where we do need a new statute. Senator Young and I also have a child labor bill… that will simply crank up those penalties. As you know, it is $68,801 maximum penalty for a child labor violation that results in the death of a child. $68,000 is what we have in federal statute. And so not only have companies made the judgment that between the office of the solicitor and overall resources for the Department, that they may not get caught, but even if they get caught, it's not that expensive and it can be booked as a cost of doing business. If a child dies on a factory floor, it's $68,000, capped. I’d like you to talk about the practical impact of those penalties. What would happen if those penalties were turned up to the point where it was a real financial hit?

In response, Acting Secretary Su said, “I can't say it better than you've already said it. When employers feel like breaking the law can just be a cost of doing business because the consequences, even when they're caught, are so minimal, the incentives to comply are too poor. And, we do everything we can at the Department of Labor, through our investigative resources, to expose illegal practices, to hold all of the companies who are responsible, accountable. We do appreciate the efforts of Congress in light of all of the attention to child labor and the cases that we continue to see, to do everything in your power to help make it more costly for those who break the law.”

Video of Senator Schatz's full exchange at today's hearing is available here.

Senator Schatz also highlighted the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau to ensure gender equality in the workplace.

Bringing the Aloha Spirit to Washington

Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke and former Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui stopped by Senator Schatz's office.

It was great to welcome the Hawai‘i Association of REALTORS to D.C.

State Senator Tim Richards, State Rep. Kirstin Kahaloa, and staff representing Hawai‘i Island discussed agriculture and other issues facing our state.

Haleakalā National Park Superintendent Natalie Gates met with Senator Schatz.

Senator Schatz addressed the East-West Center's Resilient Pacific Island Leaders fellows.

Members of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai‘i's Military Affairs Council visited with Senator Schatz.

Senator Schatz met with Vietnamese Ambassador Nguyen Quoc Dzung.

To respond to this message, please click here. This link will take you to a webpage where you can reply to messages that you receive from Senator Schatz's office. 

Hawai‘i Office p: (808) 523-2061 f: (202) 228-1153
Washington Office p: (202) 224-3934 f: (202) 228-1153

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