HUNDREDS MORE MAUI FAMILIES RESOLVE ELIGIBILITY
Office of the Governor – News Release Oct 2, 2023
HONOLULU – A joint effort by state, federal and American Red Cross workers helped to resolve eligibility questions for hundreds of wildfire survivors on Maui over the weekend, ensuring they can continue sheltering in hotels and similar lodging.
Displaced wildfire survivors will be able to continue to register for both Red Cross and FEMA assistance Monday and Tuesday until all those in the non-congregate sheltering (NCS) program have had their cases reviewed and appropriately resolved.
“Hawai‘i remains committed to ensuring that every person displaced from home by this disaster will have a place to stay,” said Governor Josh Green, M.D.
“We realize that the people of Maui have been traumatized by the wildfires, that they may not speak English, that they may have questions about trusting the government — so we’re offering our full support to help keep eligible kama‘āina in the NCS program,” the Governor said. “This lodging is a vital part of the safety net, and we’re pleased the Red Cross has made the extra effort to help all of those in our community who are eligible but had difficulties with the process.”
More than 2,500 families had established full eligibility for NCS as of Monday morning, up from about 2,200 on Friday, the Red Cross reported.
“It’s important we continue doing all we can to offer stability to those displaced by the disaster,” said Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen. “I’m grateful for the efforts of the American Red Cross and FEMA to help support our community’s needs. I’m especially thankful that many residents temporarily housed in hotels have been able to get through the registration process over the weekend to secure continued sheltering.”
Nearly 150 more didn’t meet the full eligibility rules, but will continue to receive shelter and services under a parallel program because they had special circumstances, such as:
- Their immigration or citizenship status did not meet federal requirements
- They had citizenship in the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands or other states covered by the Compacts of Free Association (COFA) with the United States
- They were unhoused at the time of the fires and had a disability, minor children, or other circumstances that would make it difficult for them to successfully transition to a group shelter.
“Citizenship and immigration status have nothing to do with whether you qualify, and we don’t share that information with the government,” said Brad Kieserman, vice president for disaster operations and logistics with the Red Cross. “Our focus today is on making sure that everyone who is in this shelter program because they were displaced from their homes by the fire stays in this program.”
The Red Cross operates the NCS program under a contract with the State of Hawai‘i, offering shelter in hotels or similar lodging – along with meals and support services, such as health care – to more than 7,000 people from about 3,000 households. It offered more privacy and healthier conditions than the group shelters established immediately after the fires, and NCS will be available until longer-term “bridge housing” with kitchens and similar amenities are available.
To be eligible, people must have:
- Been residents of the area impacted by the fire before the disaster
- Been an owner/renter or a household member of an owner/renter in the affected area
- Resided in a home that was destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by the disaster.
In the weeks shortly after the fire, the NCS program offered a “safe harbor” period when full eligibility was not required to remain in lodging. Red Cross personnel have been reaching out for weeks to households that had not established full eligibility, using phone calls, text messages and letters delivered to the rooms where they were staying. The “safe harbor” period ended Friday, and many households did not take action to address eligibility until their room keys stopped working.
The Red Cross and State of Hawai‘i will continue to work with the remaining families to resolve questions that remain on their eligibility.
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MAJORITY OF FAMILIES SHELTERING IN MAUI HOTELS HAVE ESTABLISHED FULL ELIGIBILITY TO STAY
Red Cross is Working to Assist Those Who Still Need Help
News Release from Office of the Governor, September 29, 2023
HONOLULU – More than 2,200 of the families displaced by the Maui wildfires who are receiving shelter in hotels and similar lodging have completed the required eligibility process and are approved to continue in those shelters until longer-term housing is ready for them.
In addition, the state, in partnership with Project Vision Hawai‘i has made shelter arrangements for people who did not have housing before the fires.
Together, those groups represent more than 80% of the population currently being housed in lodging under the non-congregate shelter (NCS) program operated by the American Red Cross.
Now the Red Cross is working with the remaining families and households in the NCS program to help them establish eligibility. As of noon Friday, about 800 households still in the program needed to contact Red Cross to resolve one or more questions. For fewer than 600 of those households, the only remaining eligibility issue was registration with FEMA. For those who are non-citizens, Red Cross workers in the hotel lobbies are standing by to assist.
To remain in NCS, they must establish eligibility by the end of the day Friday, Sept. 29. They can contact the Red Cross in person at the lobbies of hotels in the program or by phone at 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-3767).
“Our goal is to offer a safety net that meets the needs of every household that was impacted by this disaster,” said Governor Josh Green, M.D. “For many of these families, the Red Cross needs just a single piece of information to make sure that safety net stays in place.”
The benefit is available to everyone who had a primary residence in the fire-affected areas of Maui, that was destroyed or made uninhabitable. The program is available regardless of citizenship or immigration status, and the Red Cross does not share data with the government about those topics.
The American Red Cross has been providing the non-congregate sheltering program to nearly 3,200 households that were displaced from their homes by the fires – about 7,800 people – for the past 45 days. The program allowed them to begin to recover in more stable settings with lower health risks than the group shelters that were set up immediately after the fires.
During the NCS program, households that hadn’t met the eligibility requirements received multiple phone calls, text messages and letters from the Red Cross to complete their registration. As of this week, they were informed that they had 48 hours to contact the Red Cross or they would lose key access to their lodging.
About 200 households were determined to be fully eligible on Friday morning alone.
“If a household in NCS has had its room key turned off, received a notice to provide eligibility information, or is confused or concerned about whether they can remain in NCS, they’ve been encouraged to speak to Red Cross workers stationed in the lobbies of their hotels on Friday so that we can resolve their questions and concerns before Saturday morning,” said Brad Kieserman, vice president for disaster operations and logistics with the Red Cross.
Interpreters will be on-site or available to answer questions for survivors who do not speak English, Kieserman said. “We want to ensure this benefit is available to everyone who qualifies.”
“We know the assistance process can be complicated and confusing, especially for those who are still traumatized by the loss of their home or even a loved one,” Governor Green said. “That’s why we’ve tried to make this benefit easily available to everyone displaced by the fires, so please reach out to the Red Cross today.”
A video message from Governor Green and Brad Kieserman is available here and here.
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GOVERNOR GREEN ANNOUNCES NEW PHASE OF MAUI SHELTER PROGRAM
News Release from Office of the Governor, September 28, 2023
HONOLULU – Governor Josh Green, M.D., is announcing a transition for the approximately 7,800 people displaced by the wildfires on Maui who are currently housed in hotels. In total, nearly 8,000 people – roughly 80% of the population affected by the disaster – have been receiving non-congregate shelter and support services in 40 hotels and other lodging since the disaster.
The State of Hawai‘i remains committed to supporting all those displaced from their homes by the fires, regardless of their nationality or citizenship status, whether via federal, state, private sector or nonprofit assistance. The non-congregate shelter program is an important part of that commitment in the months ahead.
More than half of the 3,164 households using the non-congregate shelter program have established that they are fully eligible to continue in the Red Cross program until transitional housing, such as an apartment or vacation rental, is available.
Hundreds more have nearly completed the necessary qualification process, with only one piece of information still needed to secure full eligibility. A fairly small percentage has multiple steps remaining to establish that they are eligible to remain in the program.
As of this week, about 800 households in non-congregate sheltering had not yet established full eligibility. Those households are receiving a letter asking them to contact the Red Cross within 48 hours, by phone or in person at the hotels where they are staying, to provide the missing information.
If they do not respond, their access to the non-congregate shelter program may be ended. They may also lose access if:
- They did not live in the area impacted by the fires
- Their home was not destroyed or otherwise rendered uninhabitable
- They were not an owner/renter in the affected area (or a household member of the owner/renter) before the disaster occurred.
“Citizenship is not a factor in determining eligibility, and the Red Cross is not an arm of the government, so we will never share information about immigration status with anyone else,” said Brad Kieserman, vice president for disaster operations and logistics with the Red Cross. “Our whole goal in confirming eligibility is to make sure these services go to the people who were displaced from their homes by the Maui fires.”
Although the formal deadline to apply for non-congregate sheltering was early in September, the Red Cross has continued to accept households on a case-by-case basis if their circumstances prevented them from signing up in time. Friday, September 29, will be the final day to register households for non-congregate sheltering.
“As we take another step forward on the path of recovery, we want to be sure that our assistance efforts for the people are compassionate, transparent and accountable,” said Governor Green. “We are beginning to move people into long-term rentals where they have more space and household amenities to heal as people, families, and a community,” the Governor said.