Additional federal disaster funds slated for Big Island

  • Lava from fissure 8 fills Kapoho Bay, left, and covers Champagne Ponds on June 4, 2018, in lower Puna. (Tribune-Herald file photo)

Hawaii will receive another $26 million in new federal disaster relief funding, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Monday.

U.S. Sen Brian Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said $17 million of that will go to the Big Island to aid in recovery from the 2018 eruption of Kilauea volcano in lower Puna.

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“I think what is most useful about this money is that the county government gets to determine how to spend it,” Schatz said by phone Monday afternoon. “And although we’re obviously appreciative of the federal dollars, it’s even better when these federal dollars are controlled by the local government because they are closest to their constituents and best able to determine how to spend this money appropriately.”

When asked about his satisfaction with the county’s Kilauea recovery efforts, Schatz said, “everybody’s been working hard and everybody’s been working well together. This was a devastating natural disaster and some aspects of the recovery are just incredibly challenging.”

Transportation and infrastructure are some of the biggest challenges, he said, because hundreds of millions of dollars could be spent building roads, which would leave “not much left over” for individuals and small businesses.

“This process will be ongoing and this is a good example of our federal, state and county officials actually working well together,” Schatz said. “And these are difficult circumstances, but people can take some comfort in the fact that their elected officials are behaving like adults.”

The newly announced Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding adds to the $71 million announced earlier this year and will help state and local government rebuild communities affected by disaster — especially those in low- and moderate-income areas — and provide resources to help businesses recover, according to a news release from Schatz’s office.

The allocation was part of the $1.7 billion housing disaster recovery package passed last year by Congress.

According to the news release, Hawaii has now been given more than $500 million in federal disaster relief funding to aid in recovery from historic storms in April 2018, Hurricane Lane and the 2018 eruption, including:

• $15.3 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in individual assistance to help people who have lost their home;

• $205 million from FEMA in public assistance to help local and state governments clean up and repair public infrastructure such as facilities, parks, and water lines;

• $93.1 million from the Department of Transportation to help rebuild roads and highways;

• $80 million from the Department of the Interior to help repair damages at the Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory and the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge;

• $71 million from the Department of Housing &Urban Development for housing and community development;

• $47.2 million from the Small Business Administration in subsidized loans to help individuals and businesses pay for repairs not covered by insurance;

• $4 million from the Department of Labor in Disaster Unemployment Insurance to help those who lost their job temporarily or permanently because of a disaster and are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits; and

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• $187,000 from the Economic Development Administration to provide technical assistance for economic development activities in disaster impacted areas.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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