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Ige requests federal assistance programs for volcano evacuees

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald In this file photo, Gov. David Ige and Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim sign a letter of agreement earlier this month releasing $12 million to support the countyճ response to the active volcanic eruption occurring on Hawaii Island.

Gov. David Ige has requested assistance from all federal individual assistance programs to support Hawaii County residents who have lost homes and property in the Kilauea eruption.

Ige’s office submitted a request to FEMA to approve all of the federal government’s individual assistance programs in Hawaii County to address shelter, unemployment, trauma and other issues.

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These programs include the Individuals and Households Program, Transitional Sheltering Assistance, the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program, Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Disaster Cast Management and Disaster Legal Services.

In the letter, Ige’s office discusses the scope of the disaster — it estimates that 455 dwellings have been destroyed so far, with 192 being primary residences — and points out that some 2,700 residents have been ordered to evacuate. As of June 6, the letter reads, there have been 5,417 overnight stays in emergency shelters.

“This disaster continues to endanger the health, safety, and welfare of the people of the County of Hawaii,” the letter reads. “It is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected local governments.”

The letter also cites the generally lower average income of the affected area, noting that most recent census data suggests that nearly 30 percent of the Kalapana-Kapoho area is below the poverty level and that a quarter of all households in the area receive food stamps.

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The letter goes on to discuss the greater economic impacts on the island, estimating that the closure of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park alone has contributed to a loss of $17.3 million in visitor spending. Damage to the agricultural sector is estimated at over $14 million, while the closure of the Puna Geothermal Venture contributed to a loss of another $11 million in net income.

Jodi Leong, deputy communications director for Ige’s office, said there is no way to tell how soon FEMA will approve or not approve the request — similar requests in the past were approved anywhere from within a day or within a week, she said.