The Hawaii congresswoman says the money could help with rent, payroll and other operating expenses.

U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda announced Tuesday that she’s introduced legislation to provide $20,000 grants to small businesses, nonprofits and independent contractors who were affected by the Aug. 8 Maui fires.

The legislation, known as the Maui Strong Act, would target businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 25 employees. The money could be used to help with payroll, rent or other purchases, such as for equipment and materials.

Whether the legislation has any chance of becoming law is unknown, especially given Congress’ inability to pass a budget for the coming year.

Rep. Jill Tokuda makes rounds at the federal resources fair Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Lahaina. Rep. Tokuda and Senator Mazie Hirono hosted the event. It was designed to help fire victims obtain federal assistance for important paperwork lost in the Aug. 8 fire. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
U.S Rep. Jill Tokuda is hoping to get more money to small businesses and nonprofits. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)

“As Maui begins to rebuild and focus on long-term recovery, I’ve heard from residents, micro-business owners, and nonprofit organizations who are facing an uncertain future and feel frustrated that not enough is being done to be responsive to their needs,” Tokuda said in a press release. “We must do everything possible to support those who are struggling due to the fires.”

Tokuda, who represents rural Oahu and the neighbor islands, including Maui, co-sponsored the legislation with U.S. Rep. Ed Case.

Tokuda’s announcement comes as a number of Hawaii officials are in Washington this week to lobby Congress and President Joe Biden’s administration for more money to help with recovery efforts.

The contingent includes a number of elected officials, nonprofit leaders and business advocates, including Maui County Council Vice Chair Yuki Lei Sugimura, Chamber of Commerce Hawaii President and CEO Sherry Menor-McNamara and Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement President and CEO Kuhio Lewis.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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