LIHU‘E — Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, visited Kaua‘i on Wednesday with an emphasis on connecting with Kaua‘i veterans and small businesses.
“There are more than 110,000 veterans in Hawai‘i and they deserve access to high-quality, timely care through the Veterans Administration,” Hirono said. “I appreciated hearing directly from our veterans living on Kaua‘i about what the VA is doing right, and what more it needs to do to meet the needs of all our veterans in Hawai‘i.”
Answering a passioned plea about how veterans shouldn’t have to pay because they signed up to serve the country, Hirono said, “As a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, I’m focused on making sure the VA has the resources and insight it needs to fully serve Hawai‘i’s veterans. I’ll continue working to strengthen the VA help ensure all of our veterans can get the resources and support they need and deserve.”
A release from the senator’s office said Hirono has consistently worked to support veterans in Hawai‘i and across the country. As a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, she pressed officials in November 2022 at the Department of Veterans Affairs to always include Native Hawaiian veterans when discussing and developing policies to better support Native veterans.
In August 2022, Hirono helped pass the Honoring Our PACT Act — comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to expand VA health care for veterans with health conditions related to burn pit and Agent Orange exposure.
She, in October 2022, hosted a series of events, including a field hearing where she questioned U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough, focused on discussing the state of VA resources and programs in Hawai‘i.
Earlier, in September 2022, Hirono announced the VA awarded $1.5 million in federal funding to Hawai‘i to support veterans’ suicide prevention efforts.
Hirono’s day tour through the Garden Island connected her with two companies — the Kaua‘i Kookie, and the newer The Sweet Shoppe located in the Kilohana estate in Puhi. Both companies were beneficiaries of guidance and support from the U.S. Small Business Administration, including assistance through the Hawai‘i Small Business Development Center that receives federal funding from SBA’s Small Business Development Center Program.
Among the topics discussed during her visits, Hirono talked about federal funding the businesses received through the SBA Paycheck Protection Program that covered payroll costs and other related expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“From longtime institutions like Kaua‘i Kookie to newer businesses like The Sweet Shoppe, small businesses are integral to Hawai‘i’s culture and economy,” Hirono said. “Thanks to the resilience of these business owners as well as resources provided by Congress and the Small Business Administration, these businesses — and others like them across the state — were able to overcome the challenges of the pandemic and continue serving our communities. I was glad to be able to try some of the delicious sweets these businesses are known for, and I will continue working to support them, and all of Hawai‘i’s small businesses.”
The senator’s office said as a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Hirono has worked to secure federal support for Hawai‘i’s small businesses. In December 2022, Hirono introduced the Small Business Development Centers Improvement Act of 2022, legislation to reauthorize and improve the SBA’s SBDC Program.
Earlier in November 2022, Hirono visited small businesses on O‘ahu to meet with business owners and discuss how federal programs, including PPP, enabled them to remain in business through the COVID-19 pandemic. She hosted SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman in August 2022 to meet with Hawai‘i resource partners and the businesses they serve.
During this visit, Guzman heard directly from Hawai‘i businesses about the challenges they have faced as they continued to recover from the pandemic.
Source: The Garden Island