Gov. David Ige and Mayor Harry Kim have signed a letter of agreement releasing $12 million in state funds to support the county’s response to the active volcanic eruption occurring on Hawaii Island.
Kim said during a 3 p.m. media briefing in Hilo that the funds, which are immediately available, would cover most of the county’s ongoing response expenses, estimating that the county spent $3 million in the first two weeks after the eruption began. However, while the funding can be used for emergency supplies and temporary shelter-related goods and services, the agreement specifies that the funds are not intended for long-term infrastructure repairs or for private purposes such as the repair or rebuilding of private dwellings.
Ige, who attended the briefing, pointed out that emergency responders have been working nonstop since the beginning of the eruption, incurring high operating costs as a result, while the temporary presence of Army helicopters and soldiers was likewise quite costly.
“Without that funding, we’d be up a creek,” Kim said.
Ige described the funds as being a “first phase,” but did not elaborate on potential subsequent phases.
“When all of this started, none of us knew we would get to this point,” Ige said. “It will be a while before we can get anywhere close to normal.”
However, Kim said the new influx of state funds will help develop new programs to provide more efficient services for people affected by the eruption.
“This is the first time in the last several days that I feel positive about where we’re going to go,” Kim said.
“Today’s agreement provides initial financial support, and I am committed to providing additional assistance to the County of Hawaii as new needs and specific projects are identified,” Ige said.