GOVERNOR GREEN ANNOUNCES PROGRESS ON WEST MAUI SCHOOL, HOUSING TRANSITION, AND FINANCIAL HELP FOR WILDFIRE SURVIVORS
News Release from Office of the Governor, September 21, 2023
HONOLULU ̶ Governor Josh Green, M.D., announced plans for a new, temporary campus for King Kamehameha III Elementary School, to serve displaced West Maui students and educators. The school was damaged beyond repair in the Lāhainā wildfires. The state will lease privately owned land north of Lāhainā town where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will construct modular classrooms and additional buildings.
“We know that parents want stability and normalcy for their keiki and we, the DOE, and our federal partners are working to bring that quality of life back to them as soon as we possibly can,” said Governor Green. “DOE Superintendent Keith Hayashi and our Army Corps partners will provide more details in the coming days.”
Governor Green also addressed efforts to transition survivors from hotels to longer-term housing, as he has been discussing in the weeks since the disaster.
“In terms of housing, we can’t say enough how grateful we are that our hospitality industry, including so many hotels, has extended its aloha to residents who survived the wildfires by immediately providing more suitable accommodations for our Maui families,” the Governor said. “I thank our vacation rentals for housing more than 1,400 displaced residents, in addition to the thousands in hotel rooms and hundreds in HHFDC units. We are beginning the process of transitioning survivors out of hotels and into longer-term housing including additional vacation rental and condo-hotel housing, that will begin to feel at least a little bit more normal for those deeply affected,” Governor Green said.
Governor Green’s Administration successfully moved survivors from congregate shelters to non-congregate shelters within two weeks of the disaster, which the American Red Cross says has never before been accomplished. Alongside the State Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT), the American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and private-sector partners housed nearly 8,000 survivors and hotel employees in more than 2,400 units across some 40 properties. The Hawaiʻi Housing Finance and Development Corporation placed more than 300 families through its Hawaiʻi Fire Relief Housing Program, which has approximately 1,200 property listings. Ongoing discussions with Expedia-VRBO are aimed at adding housing for displaced survivors. FEMA has received 15,931 registrations for services and will support more than 18 months of rental assistance for survivors.
“I have been on the ground on Maui in recent weeks and am overwhelmed by the resilience and perseverance of the people of West Maui, from the shelter survivors to more than a thousand ILWU hotel workers that lost everything, to the Lāhainā students, teachers, and administrators who have had to learn a new path towards education,” said DBEDT Director James Kunane Tokioka. “From housing to business recovery, we will continue to work with the community, county, state, and federal partners on these relief efforts and provide updates as progress is made,” said Tokioka, who also serves on the Governor’s Joint Housing Task Force.
In addition to housing, the state, through the Department of Human Services (DHS), is offering financial assistance to survivors through federally funded programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
“DHS has been working with the impacted communities on Maui since this tragic disaster unfolded,” said Director Cathy Betts. “Our social safety net prevents families from falling through the cracks, and our programs aim to uplift individuals and families. We are proud of our team members, who have been working around the clock to ensure creative, thoughtful, and community-led collaboration to launch our DSNAP efforts, to continue our SNAP waivers to ensure families can access hot food, and we look forward to launching our TANF program efforts as we continue to assist impacted families during this time of need,” she said. More information on receiving TANF benefits will be available in the coming weeks.
The American Red Cross has been on the ground from the beginning stages of the disaster, caring for survivors first in mass shelters and now, in hotels and other locations.
“Our primary focus at this time is caring for about 78 percent of the pre-disaster population of Lāhainā — who are staying in dozens of non-congregate shelters (NCS),” said Red Cross Deputy Coordinating Officer Adam Runkle. “All survivors in our NCS care, who resided on Maui and whose primary home was made uninhabitable, will continue to receive shelter and will not be impacted by the end of the Safe Harbor period on September 29.”
By September 29, the Red Cross will have eligibility data needed to help find solutions for all survivors in its care, Runkle said.
The October 8 reopening of tourism also will have no effect on Red Cross NCS sheltering services, he said.
Since August 8, the Red Cross in Hawaiʻi has distributed more than $10 million in direct financial assistance to more than 4,100 survivors’ households and the aid will be continuing, Runkle said, emphasizing that assistance is provided to survivors regardless of immigration status and that the nonprofit does not share any information with immigration officials.
DHS and the Red Cross are working with community partners to offer translation services for survivors who are more comfortable speaking in their first language, so they, too, can apply for and receive all the assistance for which they qualify.
Hawaiʻi Community Foundation CEO Micah Kāne observed that efforts are transitioning from rapid response to recovery and stabilization.
“We’re evaluating much bigger, deeper, broader-impacting investments, which require a different context by which you evaluate decisions. A lot of it is going to come from what the community wants to see, balanced with what should be provided during a time like this,” he said. While the philanthropic community can never take the place of government, Kāne said “we can play a very strategic role when it comes to mid-term housing, mid-term education, mid-term health care needs, and mid-term transportation needs. We can use a very strategic, efficient way of deploying resources early, filling in pockets along the way, as well as being on the back end. We’re going to be looking for 5x, or 10x-type returns on this and I think that’s where philanthropy should play a role, so that we have those resources for the long run.”
# # #