Maui Fire Lawyers – Fire Victims’ Fund in the Works As Housing Challenges Persist

CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM Gov. Josh Green spoke at a news conference Wednesday on Maui about recovery efforts following the Aug. 8 wildfires. Pictured below are the burned-out remnants of a Lahaina affordable housing project.

CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

Gov. Josh Green spoke at a news conference Wednesday on Maui about recovery efforts following the Aug. 8 wildfires. Pictured below are the burned-out remnants of a Lahaina affordable housing project.

Gov. Josh Green plans to announce details of a new “recovery and humanitarian fund” for families that lost loved ones or were injured in the Aug. 8 Lahaina wildfire.

“Expect significant announcements from me in early November about funds for families who have lost a loved one or for individuals who were hurt in the fire physically,” Green said at a wide-ranging news conference Wednesday on Maui, joined by Maui Mayor Richard Bissen and officials from the American Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We are putting together a coalition to get them resources, hopefully in a much more expedited way, so that they don’t have to wait for a long period of litigation,” Green said. “We know that there are going to need to be settlements, there have been tragedies. We want to be compassionate. So we will look at this as a recovery and humanitarian fund for those who suffered the greatest.”

Green plans to meet with President Joe Biden at the White House next week, along with meetings with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Hawaii’s congressional delegation.

Officials on Wednesday also talked about ongoing efforts and challenges finding more permanent housing, kitchens, parking and laundry facilities for the 6,879 fire evacuees remaining in Maui hotels and “hundreds in Airbnbs” on an island that already needed more housing before the fires, Green said.

“We’re making a lot of progress, but it is going to be a very long process,” Green said Gail McGovern, CEO and president of the American Red Cross, continued to reassure evacuees in hotels mostly in Kaanapali that they can remain indefinitely until they’re relocated to more comfortable accommodations.

“We are not asking anyone to leave until we find a permanent housing solution,” McGovern said. “So people are staying in those hotels. We’re not kicking people out. … We’re the Red Cross. We don’t do things like that.”

The Red Cross already has hired workers from Maui to help evacuees.

“They know the community, they know the streets, they have cultural sensitivity,” McGovern said.

FEMA has offered rental subsidies of 175% of fair market rate value to help evacuees relocate because “we know it’s a difficult rental market here,” said Bob Fenton, FEMA’s regional administrator.

FEMA already has provided rental assistance to nearly 3,300 people and extensions of an additional six months are available, he said. Discussions are underway to offer 18-month extensions, he said.

“We want to help individuals as much as possible. … We’d like to see you spend the next two Christmases in the same place,” Fenton said.

Bissen acknowledged “anxiety, the uncertainty” over housing and continued to implore “family, friends, co-workers” on Maui and across the state to take in evacuees, which makes them eligible for up to $1,500 a month, retroactive to Aug. 8.

It even applies to people on other islands who take in evacuees who find work outside of Maui.

Bissen also asked Maui landlords to convert shortterm rentals to longer-term housing.

Short-term rentals are taxed at a higher rate, Bissen said.

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