The Hawaii Travel Advisory Council voted Thursday to approve a $15 billion package of $1.5 billion to help alleviate the financial impact of Hurricane Maria, and also to provide $1 billion in emergency relief.
The votes marked the first time that a single state has passed legislation authorizing the use of federal funds to help the victims of the hurricane.
But the votes came amid concerns that the measure would be too broad and could be abused by businesses, which have complained about the amount of money already approved.
The $1 million each in aid is intended to cover the cost of providing a “safety net” to help people affected by the storm.
Doug Chin said the measure will help rebuild communities and create jobs, but it is not intended to pay for private security or public safety.
“This is not a tax.
This is not an investment.
This will not pay for the cost or cost overruns that people have reported on our behalf,” Chin said.
“It’s about giving the people of Hawaii the certainty and the resources they need.”
More than 100 counties voted in favor of the aid package, with some arguing that it would help the most vulnerable people, including the homeless.
The council voted to provide more money to local governments to help pay for hurricane recovery, to provide additional aid to Puerto Rico and to create a $500 million fund for businesses in the state to help offset the costs of the storm damage.
But those votes were not enough to pass the measure.
“The public and state officials have voiced strong concerns that this bill does not adequately address the challenges we face as a state, and will likely lead to further uncertainty for Hawaiians and their businesses,” said Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin.
“We look forward to working with Congress to address these concerns.”
The votes came during the second of two days of special session.
The House approved the bill Thursday, sending it to the Senate, which has been in session since Wednesday.
But that bill is being held hostage for now as Congress considers whether to extend the state’s disaster relief aid until December.
It is unclear if lawmakers will take up the bill again in January.