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Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – On Wednesday, February 21, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai met with Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (District 8, Kaua'i, Ni'ihau) and Senator Troy Hashimoto (District 5, Wailuku, Kahului, Waihe‘e, Waikapu Mauka, Wai‘ehu), and the leaders at Maui Economic Opportunity (MEO) at the MEO offices in Wailuku on Maui, to discuss housing and recovery efforts for West Maui after the August 2023 wildfire.


"It is an honor to be invited by Ambassador Tai to meet with her to discuss recovery efforts on Maui after initially meeting her last year, and we mahalo her for personally coming to visit to see first-hand what is needed to restore Lahaina," said Senator Hashimoto. "We have been grateful for the federal assistance provided by the Biden Administration, and we trust that Ambassador Tai will continue to advocate for the people of Lahaina, Maui, and the State of Hawaiʻi."


Ambassador Tai, serving as the principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on United States trade policy, and as the co-chair of the President's Advisory Commission and White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, was on Maui touring the Lahaina impact area and Disaster Recovery Center, receiving a briefing on efforts to rebuild schools and get keiki back in the classroom, and meeting with those leading recovery efforts.


"Six months on, I was heartened to see the progress being made here in Lahaina, from the physical rebuilding to the intentional outreach to the community’s more vulnerable members," said Ambassador Tai. "The Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to ensuring our federal response continues, for as long as it takes."


During their meeting, Senate President Kouchi and Senator Hashimoto urged Ambassador Tai to recognize the unique situation that West Maui is in as it attempts to recover from the wildfire, and to advocate for the construction of one-thousand permanent FEMA-built housing units to house the wildfire survivors.


"Ambassador Tai's compassion was evident as she heard and saw what Lahaina is going through," said Senate President Kouchi. "Keiki need stability in both school and housing. I understand that typically FEMA does not build permanent housing structures, but the wildfire and its resulting impact is not a typical disaster. For the stability of our families, and the stability of Maui's rental market and overall economy, we need permanent housing structures in West Maui as soon as possible. I think that Ambassador Tai understood the urgency, sincerity, and severity of our request for the construction of one-thousand permanent FEMA housing units, and that she will carry that message on and fight for us."

L-R Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi, Senator Troy Hashimoto, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai, and Maui Economic Opportunity CEO Debbie Cabebe.



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