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Updates from Schatz (June 23-July 1)

MEDIA RELEASE

SCHATZ ANNOUNCES FEDERAL FUNDS TO IMPROVE MONITORING OF KILAUEA

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz announced the University of Hawaii will receive a $86,462 grant from the National Science Foundation to improve monitoring of Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

“Kilauea’s spectacular volcanic eruptions have attracted much attention over the last three decades. More than 5,000 travelers visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park each day,” Schatz said. “And because Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, eruptions also pose a real threat to life and property as experienced by hundreds of families on Hawaii Island who have lost their homes and been forced to start over. This grant will help better monitor Kilauea’s activity and increase public safety for residents and visitors.”

The National Science Foundation grant will support high-speed photography and high-resolution analysis of released volcanic gas so that researchers can better forecast the course of future eruptions.

Researchers will also study the Stromboli volcano in Italy and, if activity permits, the Etna volcano, also in Italy.

MORE THAN $2M FOR HAWAII COUNTY COMMUNITY PROGRAMS

Schatz announced that Hawaii County will receive a $2,677,897 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of its Community Development Block Grant program.

“Hawaii Island has unique and important needs,” Schatz said. “And local communities understand their challenges and needs better than anyone else. This grant gives Hawaii County the flexibility to address their priorities and design their own programs that can help families find affordable housing or help care for our seniors.”

The Community Block Grant program provides annual grants to States and local units of government to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment and by expanding economic opportunities, principally for low-and moderate-income persons.

SCHATZ CALLS SUPREME COURT RULING BLOCKING WOMEN’S ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE DISAPPOINTING

Honolulu, HI – In a divided decision, the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that closely-held private corporations can impose their religious beliefs on women by denying them birth control coverage as part of their health insurance.

Schatz released the following statement on the ruling.

“Employers should never have the right to make personal health decisions for women,” Schatz said. “I am deeply disappointed in today’s Supreme Court ruling on Hobby Lobby. This decision sets a troubling legal precedent and puts the health and welfare of women and their families at risk.”

SCHATZ WORKS TO INCLUDE FUNDING FOR PROGRAMS IN JOB-TRAINING BILL

Washington, DC – Today, the United States Senate passed the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), legislation that improves workforce development programs to prepare American workers for the jobs of tomorrow.

Schatz voted to pass the legislation and worked with Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to make sure funding for youth, adult, dislocated, and Native Hawaiian workforce development programs in Hawaii were included in the bill.

“Last summer, I visited the Hawaii Job Corps Center in Waimanalo and saw firsthand how investing in job training programs can grow our local economy and help build a stronger middle class,” Schatz said. “Our bipartisan legislation will give American workers the skills they need to compete in our global economy and prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Under the WIOA, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native programs will have access to additional funding under a new competitive grant program to address their unique needs.

WIOA reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and WIA programs, such as Job Corps. In 2012, Hawaii Job Corps sites received $13.7 million through WIA. In 2013, the Hawaii Department of Labor received $7.1 million for state-wide workforce development programs.

Hawaii also received $2.7 million for Native Hawaiian adult and youth workforce development programs.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act will:

* Streamline the workforce development system and strengthen the connection between workforce development and dynamic sectors of our economy;

* Support access to on-the-job education and career-focused workforce development opportunities; and

* Enable businesses to identify in-demand skills and connect workers with the opportunities to build those skills

SCHATZ CONGRATULATES KIAAINA ON PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTMENT

Schatz announced Esther Kiaaina’s Senate confirmation as Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“President Obama recognized a tremendous individual for this important post in Esther Kiaaina,” Schatz said. “Her confirmation is a testament to her distinguished career and expertise on Native Hawaiian issues and land management. Esther is an exceptional addition to the Department of the Interior and will serve well as Assistant Secretary.”

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs coordinates federal policy in the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The office also administers U.S. federal assistance to the Freely Associated States of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau under the Compacts of Free Association.

SCHATZ WORKS WITH STATE DEPARTMENT TO GROW TOURISM

Schatz, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Tourism, Innovation, and Competitiveness held a hearing on the state of U.S. tourism and travel industry today and announced plans to work with the U.S. Department of State on legislation to make it easier for low-risk international travelers to visit the United States, boosting tourism and helping the government achieve its goal of attracting 100 million visitors annually by 2021.

“With an increasing demand for visas from international visitors, we have a great opportunity to grow our tourism industry and our economy,” Schatz said. “We need to do everything we can speed up the visa process and make it easier for low-risk travelers to revisit our country. I am committed to working with the State Department on legislation to expand the visa Interview Waiver Program and find ways to strengthen our tourism industry and create jobs.”

At the hearing, Ambassador Michele Bond, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Consular Affairs, announced the State Department’s interest in working with Congress on a legislative proposal to expand the existing visa Interview Waiver Program, making it easier for low-risk travelers to visit the United States while maintaining high levels of security.

The Interview Waiver Program is a State Department program, which allows certain individuals seeking renewals of previously issued visas to have their applications processed without having to attend visa interviews at U.S. consulates.

In FY 2013, the State Department waived more than 380,000 interviews.

John Wagner, Acting Assistant Commissioner at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), testified at today’s hearing that CBP was close to reaching an agreement to include Japan in the Global Entry program, which will facilitate travel to Hawaii.

Global Entry provides expedited clearance for prescreened, low-risk travelers at U.S. ports of entry.

Wagner also testified that CBP was moving closer to expanding the Preclearance program to Japan. The Preclearance program stations CBP officers in foreign airports, clearing travelers at their point of origin to avoid lengthy processing at busy U.S. airports.

This would also allow airports without CBP international facilities, including Kona Airport, to begin accepting international flights.

Last year, Japanese tourists made up 18% of Hawaii’s visitors and brought more than $2.5 billion into Hawaii’s economy. CBP currently operates 15 Preclearance locations in six foreign countries.

To view the complete hearing on CSPAN, visit: www.c-span.org/video/?320170-1…

MORE THAN $1.75M TO HELP HAWAII’S UNEMPLOYED

Schatz announced that Hawaii will receive two grants totaling $1,752,905 from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to help unemployed individuals train for and transition to new employment.

Hawaii will receive $897,420 through the Job-Driven National Emergency Grant program to train unemployed workers for jobs in high-demand industries and $855,485 through the Reemployment and Eligibility Assessment (REA) Program grant to help Unemployment Insurance claimants return to work quickly.

“The best way to help those who are unemployed is to help them get back to work,” Schatz said. “These funds support Hawaii’s job centers and help those who are unemployed with the job training and services they need to find a good paying job.”

Both programs have a track record of assisting the unemployed in Hawaii:

* The Job-Driven National Emergency Grant program expands employer occupational training partnerships that result in an industry-recognized credential, such as on-the-job training or registered apprenticeships. Funding from this grant will also be used for career coaching and job placement.

* The Reemployment and Eligibility Assessment (REA) Program grant will be used to conduct in-person assessments at American Job Centers that assist unemployed individuals in the creation of reemployment plans based on their skills and the job market. These assessments also help evaluate Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, and provide job training services. Since the initiative began in March 2005, Hawaii has assisted more than 36,000 UI claimants with their reemployment efforts. There are currently eight American Job Centers across Hawaii.

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