COURTESY GOV. JOSH GREEN
Gov. Josh Green assured displaced survivors of the Lahaina fire that they will not be forced to leave their hotels and other temporary accommodations once West Maui opens to tourism Oct. 8.
“There is a counternarrative that we should not open up for several years,” Green told reporters Thursday at a state Capitol news conference. “That’s not possible. But we won’t displace individuals who are currently in hotels or other Airbnbs or other housing to accommodate anyone.”
Nearly 8,000 survivors of the Aug. 8 wind-driven wildfire that killed at least 97 people and destroyed over 2,000 structures in Lahaina have been placed at 40 hotels and other accommodations around the island.
Earlier this month, Green announced that West Maui would open to the public Oct. 8, a move intended to allow residents to get back to work and to kick-start the economy.
“There’s nothing magical about that (date), except that it was two months from when the fire occurred, and we just have to begin to heal,” he said. Green said he was astounded by how many survivors asked that Lahaina be reopened for tourism.
“About 85% of the people that we spoke to asked us to open up almost immediately so that they could keep their jobs,” he said. “Others will feel differently, and we’re not going to pressure them to go back to work or do anything of the sort, but we do know that recovery has to begin.”
State Business, Economic Development and Tourism Director James Tokioka said the state is not condoning properties that are asking survivors including their own hotel employees — to leave without alternative housing solutions.
We want to make sure every single survivor has an opportunity, wherever that may be, for shelter,” Tokioka said.
Green said few tourists are expected to travel to West Maui in the coming months, and he expects those who do will be repeat visitors who will be respectful as the town works to rise from the ashes.
Another state-funded program will bring $12.5 million for businesses affected by the fire. Details of program, to be administered by Maui County, are still being worked out.
Micah Kane, president of the Hawaii Community Foundation, which administers the Maui Strong Fund, said $120 million has been raised from over 200,000 donors across the world, representing 50 countries.
Nearly $25 million has either been already appropriated or will be going to over 100 community organizations working to support Maui.