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Thursday, February 3, 2022
OHA Bumps Up $1M Emergency Financial Assistance Program
By News Release @ 2:00 AM :: 2661 Views :: OHA, COVID-19

(HONOLULU) - Beginning Feb. 1, 2022, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs will expand the assistance available to Native Hawaiians through its Ka Wailele Emergency Financial Assistance Program. In addition to mortgage, rental and utility support, the Ka Wailele program will now be offering relief for car repairs, funeral expenses, and out-of-pocket medical expenses. Maximum awards will also be increased from $1,500 to $2,000. 

In June 2021, OHA announced that it was making $1,044,253 available to implement an emergency financial assistance program for Native Hawaiians. The Ka Wailele program is being administered by Hawaiʻi Community Lending (HCL), a nonprofit U.S. Treasury-certified community development financial institution that specializes in providing loans to local residents with a focus on Native Hawaiians, who cannot qualify at mainstream banks and credit unions. HCL and its sister company, Hawaiian Community Assets, operate four Financial Opportunity Centers on Oʻahu, Maui, Kauaʻi and Hawaiʻi Island. 

HCL, as the administrator of the program, conducted community listening sessions to further identity financial needs of Native Hawaiians. One such meeting was with the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Hawai’i COVID-19 Response, Recovery and Resilience team coordinated by Papa Ola Lōkahi. Anecdotal evidence confirmed that living expenses were increasing and transportation, funeral and medical expenses, in particular, were becoming out of reach for some Native Hawaiians across the state.  

“We confirmed with data that applicants needed assistance with transportation to travel to work and school. Unfortunately, at the same time, family deaths and medical expenses directly or indirectly related to COVID-19 were becoming increasingly apparent as a need,” said HCL Executive Director Jeff Gilbreath. 

To address these growing financial needs, HCL and OHA worked collaboratively to expand the dollar amount of program grants and program uses to meet the needs of the Native Hawaiian community. 

Assistance with car registration costs will be ineligible and assistance limited to vehicle repairs and maintenance only. Funeral costs are limited to mortuary costs - casket, embalming, cremation, funeral service - as well as help with food and flower arrangement costs for funerals. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted our people and it is our hope that this emergency financial assistance from OHA can help ease some of the stress that our Native Hawaiian ‘ohana have experienced,” said OHA CEO/Ka Pouhana Dr. Sylvia Hussey. “We also mahalo HCL as an outstanding community partner as they work tirelessly to serve our Native Hawaiian beneficiaries.”  

Native Hawaiians who are at least 18 years old and in financial hardship should review program requirements and apply. No income requirements pertain but Native Hawaiians are limited in receiving OHA emergency financial assistance to one grant every two years. 

HCL will process applications, and payments will be made directly to landlords, mortgage lenders, utility providers, car repair shops, medical providers, or funeral homes. Approved applicants will also have access to financial counseling, additional grants or affordable loans, and career coaching through Financial Opportunity Centers run by HCL’s parent corporation, Hawaiian Community Assets. 

Native Hawaiians in financial hardship should apply online at www.oha.org/emergencyaid or www.kawailele.org. Persons without internet access or a computer are encouraged to call HCL at (808) 587-7656 to request a paper application or complete an application over the phone.  

In-person assistance will be available at Financial Opportunity Centers and remote offices statewide

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OHA Makes $1 Million Available For Emergency Financial Assistance Program

News Release from OHA, June 1, 2021

HONOLULU, HI – The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) announced today it is making $1,044,253 available to implement an emergency financial assistance program for Native Hawaiians. OHA’s Ka Wailele Emergency Financial Assistance Program is being administered by Hawaiʻi Community Lending (HCL), a Native Hawaiian community development financial institution.

OHA is encouraging Native Hawaiians - who are at least 18 years old and in financial hardship - to review program requirements and apply. Program applications will be available starting June 1, 2021, at 8 a.m. No income requirements apply.

Ka Wailele will provide grants up to $1,500 for past due rent, mortgage, utilities and rent deposits to an estimated 520 households that can prove Native Hawaiian ancestry, Hawaiʻi residency, financial hardship, and need for housing and/or utility assistance. Native Hawaiians are limited in receiving OHA emergency financial assistance to one grant every two years.

HCL will process applications, and payments will be made directly to landlords, mortgage lenders, or utility providers. Approved applicants will also have access to financial counseling, additional grants or affordable loans, and career coaching through Financial Opportunity Centers run by HCL’s parent corporation, Hawaiian Community Assets.

“Supporting Native Hawaiian ‘ohana in successfully navigating the challenges they face is integral to the work we do at OHA,” said OHA Ka Pouhana/CEO Dr. Sylvia Hussey. “We hope that the emergency financial assistance from OHA will help alleviate some of the stress created by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as connect ‘ohana with other valuable resources that are available to them.”

“We mahalo OHA for their investment in bringing emergency financial assistance to the community at this critical time,” said HCL Executive Director Jeff Gilbreath. “Our organization looks forward to partnering with OHA, Native Hawaiian Trusts, and community members on the ground to ensure these funds help stabilize housing, so we can begin to move families toward economic recovery.”

Native Hawaiians in financial hardship should apply online at www.oha.org/emergencyaid or www.kawailele.org. Persons without internet access or a computer are encouraged to call HCL at (808) 587-7656 to request a paper application or complete an application over the phone. In-person assistance will be available at Financial Opportunity Centers and remote offices statewide.

Learn more at www.oha.org/emergencyaid.  

SA: OHA offers $1M in emergency financial help for Native Hawaiians

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