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Island coalition among finalists eligible for up to $100M

Hawaii County could receive as much as $100 million to strengthen its agricultural industry as part of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better initiative.

The Build Back Better Regional Challenge — a program from the U.S. Economic Development Administration aimed at boosting local economic recovery in communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — named 60 finalists on Monday, one of which was the Hawaii Island Coalition, a group of several stakeholders including the county Department of Research and Development, The Food Basket, the Big Island Resource Conservation and Development Council, the University of Hawaii, and more.

As a finalist, the coalition will receive a $500,000 grant that it can use to work toward Phase 2 of the challenge: a chance for 25 to 30 finalists to get between $25 million and $100 million, said county R&D Director Doug Adams.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” Adams said. “$500,000 is not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a key into a lock for a lot more money.”

Adams said the coalition’s members have a range of agricultural projects that could benefit from the Phase 2 funding. The document submitted by the coalition to the Build Back Better Challenge included projects such as improving existing meat processing space, expanding breadfruit agroforestry production, improving waste management strategies around the island, and more.

But if the coalition is awarded the Phase 2 funds, Adams said it is still unclear how many projects they could support.

According to the EDA website, the funds can be used to implement “3-8 projects that support an industry sector.” Adams said he expects further instruction from the EDA later this week.

Even if the coalition is not awarded a Phase 2 grant, Adams said the technical assistance provided by the $500,000 grant will still be valuable.

“This announcement is great news for the Big Island and the state,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii,, in a statement. “Investing in agriculture will create jobs, support families, and grow our local economy. I’ll do everything I can to get this application over the finish line and make sure Hawaii secures this federal funding.”

The deadline for the coalition to apply for Phase 2 is in March.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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