Sen. Brian Schatz makes a visit to MEO

July 8, 2022

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz discussed Maui Economic Opportunity’s Kāohi youth program on Moloka‘i, federal transportation funding issues and the Hale Mahaolu Ke Kahua Housing Community during a half-hour visit to MEO’s Wailuku office on Thursday, July 7.

He met with MEO staff, led by CEO Debbie Cabebe, and board members, including outgoing President Bard Peterson and Carol Reimann, who was installed as president later in the morning.

The senator heard about Kāohi, a smoking, alcohol, drugs, bullying and suicide prevention program that began on Moloka‘i in June. The program has two years of funding in place with a $100,000 private grant from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation and a $100,000 federal grant.

MEO is attempting to bring its transportation shop facilities from a rented location in Kahului to the nonprofit’s transportation base yard in Puunene. MEO staff and consultants discussed with Schatz the obstacles faced by MEO in obtaining federal grants for the project, which has grown more expensive.

MEO is a partner in the Hale Mahaolu Ke Kahua project, a 100 percent affordable rental project for families earning 60 percent or less of the area median income. The nonprofit is offering the land for a dollar a year for 70 years to allow the project to pencil out as 100 percent affordable. A total of 120 multifamily units are planned.

Schatz was told of obstacles facing the project, including litigation over the title of the 11-acre parcel.

“We had a wonderful visit and thank Senator Schatz for taking the time to visit with us and learn about MEO and its programs,” said Cabebe.

Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc., is a nonprofit agency that’s part of the national Community Action Partnership network, whose goal is to help low income individuals and families and disenfranchised people help themselves and transform their lives. Chartered in 1965, MEO offers more than 40 programs that assist low income people, kupuna, youths, persons with disabilities, immigrants and other disenfranchised individuals countywide. MEO runs the Human Services specialized transportation program for health and dialysis appointments, after-school and youth sports activities and more; and the Maui Bus paratransit system; Head Start preschools and Kahi Kamali‘i Infant Care Center; as well as programs that offer kupuna socialization and information; rent, mortgage and utility assistance; Spanish interpretation and translation; entrepreneurial and financial classes and support, including microloans; inmate reintegration into the community after release; youth drinking, drug, smoking, bullying and suicide prevention; and employment training and placement. For more information about the entire array of programs, visit meoinc.org or call (808) 249-2990.

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