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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Green Launches Compensation Fund for Lahaina Dead, Injured
By News Release @ 2:33 AM :: 1480 Views :: Maui County, Hawaii State Government

GOVERNOR GREEN ANNOUNCES OPENING OF ONE ‘OHANA FUND 

The Fund Will Help Families of Deceased Avoid Lengthy, Uncertain Litigation

News Release from Office of the Governor, February 27, 2024

HONOLULU  ̶  Governor Josh Green, M.D., today announced that on March 1, the $175 million One ‘Ohana Fund will be ready to accept applications from survivors of loved ones lost and those seriously injured and hospitalized as a result of the Maui wildfires on August 8, 2023.

“This fund is going to help those families who lost a loved one in the devastation of last year’s wildfires,” said Governor Green. “As Governor, providing this certain and more timely option was the most direct path possible toward healing and recovery envisioned with our partners.”

Initially announced on November 8, 2023, Phase 1 of the recovery fund will make distributions to families of those who died, and to those who suffered severe injuries in the Maui wildfires. The settlements will allow those who have already endured such tragedy, to begin healing and recovery more quickly. Disbursements to surviving family members who lost loved ones will be $1.5 million. Settlements for those who suffered traumatic injuries will vary.

Applications can be submitted online at www.mauicompensationfund.com when the site goes live March 1. Frequently asked questions and additional information can be found at the site once it goes live.

Retired state judge Ronald Ibarra will serve as administrator of the fund. Judge Ibarra will be working on a pro bono basis and meeting with surviving family members to answer questions and address any concerns each may have.

“I am honored to have this kuleana and consider it to be one of the most important roles I’ve ever served in,” said Judge Ibarra. “While my service to affected families will be partly informed by my decades in the legal profession and serving on the bench, my compassion for people and helping them ease their suffering will take precedence.”

First Hawaiian Bank is extending its support by offering pro bono services as the financial depositary for the One ‘Ohana Fund. The bank is playing a key role in facilitating the fund’s operations by also providing infrastructure support, including office space and administrative assistance for Judge Ibarra and the fund.

“First Hawaiian Bank remains dedicated to supporting Lahaina residents affected by the devastating wildfire as they navigate the road to recovery from the tragic events of just six months ago,” said First Hawaiian President, Chairman and CEO Bank Bob Harrison. “We stand prepared to assist Governor Josh Green and the One ‘Ohana Fund in their endeavor to provide support and closure for impacted families.”

Honolulu-based attorney Richard Sakoda represents some of the families who plan to apply to the One ‘Ohana Fund. His practice specializes in estate planning, elder law and Medicaid planning, and probate/trust administration, among other areas of law.

“Needs vary among wildfire survivors and some of the families I have spoken to might not be interested in participating in drawn-out litigation that with appeals may take years to resolve, or result in any settlement,” Sakoda said. “Thanks to Governor Green’s bold leadership and the fund partners, the families I have spoken to will be able to move forward with healing and recovery more quickly.”

Contributors to the fund include: Hawaiian Electric Co. ($75M); the state of Hawai‘i ($65M); Kamehameha Schools ($17.5M); Maui County ($10M); Charter/Spectrum ($2.5M); Hawaiian Telcom ($2.5M), and West Maui Land Co. ($2.5M). Additional entities are anticipated to join in support of future phases of the One ‘Ohana Initiative, which describes the many recovery programs the state has initiated, or which have been launched as part of various efforts to benefit the entire state. These include the $100M Maui Relief TANF Program; the updated siren policy by the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency; Hawaiian Electric’s wildfire safety strategy, and many others.

The State’s Share

Governor Green submitted a balanced budget and financial plan to the legislature which prioritized limited state resources to address state needs such as housing, healthcare, climate, and Maui recovery. The Governor’s proposed budget preserved core government programs and services.

Disaster costs are evolving and the administration plans to submit additional budget items related to disaster recovery. All requests will fit within a balanced budget and financial plan for the legislature to consider.

“We continue to believe that our overall strategy is sound and that through the prudent use of our financial management tools, we will have the capacity to address the additional needs that have been identified,” Governor Green said. “It is the legislature’s responsibility and prerogative to appropriate state funds, and we will continue to work with them to address the many needs in our state.”

Governor Green and his administration are continuing proactive efforts to provide financial support to wildfire survivors and broader recovery work, to ensure that the best interests of Maui and Hawai‘i are served, rather than the interests of offshore financial institutions and investors.

The One ‘Ohana Fund was created to provide compensation, similar to the way funds were established following other catastrophic tragedies including 9/11, the Boston Marathon Bombing and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, to name a few. Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, administrator of the 9/11 Fund is advising the state on the One ‘Ohana Fund.

Additional actions will be taken to better protect Hawai‘i from fire risks going forward.

A comprehensive legislative package has been submitted to the legislature that would protect consumers from significant increases in their energy and insurance bills as a result of the fire;  protect consumers while allowing for fund generation going forward; to improve and harden the grid, and to address the impacts of climate change.

Two sets of FAQs can be found here and here.  One set contains general questions and answers; the other is specifically for potential claimants. You can also find the slide deck here

Video of the Governor’s news conference can be viewed here.

Photos from today’s news conference, courtesy Office of the Governor, will be uploaded here

# # #

SA: Maui fire payout applications open Friday | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

CB: Maui Fires: Money For Victims, Housing For Survivors Are Hawaii Governor's Priorities  

MN: Gov. Green shares details of $175M fund to compensate wildfire victims

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