Federal notice includes $83M for county

  • An aerial view from Feb. 15, 2019, shows where the 2018 lava flow crossed Highway 132 and where PGV has cut a road through the cooled lava near Highway 132. (Tribune-Herald file photo)

Hawaii County can now take its next step to secure than $80 million in federal money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to aid in recovery from the 2018 eruption of Kilauea volcano.

A federal register notice allocating $3.8 billion in Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery funds was published Jan. 27, and included $83.84 million for Hawaii County to support disaster relief, long-term recovery and revitalization.

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The federal notice took effect Monday, Disaster Recovery Officer Douglas Le said following a recovery progress report Tuesday to the County Council Committee on Governmental Relations and Economic Development, and “starts the 120 day clock” for developing a required action plan for HUD.

Recovery spokesman Tom Callis said the county has until June 2 to develop an action plan, which requires a 30-day public comment period.

According to the federal notice, the action plan must address disaster-related impacts to infrastructure, housing or economic revitalization in the most impacted and distressed areas.

“Following the action plan, we will work with HUD to complete a grant agreement and a Disaster Recovery Grant Reporting Plan,” Callis said. “Those steps are needed to get access to the funds.”

According to Callis, the county has six years to spend the funds.

Le said in January that voluntary housing buyouts will be a priority for the CDBG-DR funds.

In a buyout, a local jurisdiction, in this case the county, would buy property from individual property owners in the impacted areas. The property would not be developed after the purchase, he explained at that time.

Regarding other recovery funding sources, Le said Tuesday that resources from Gov. David Ige’s office and the state Legislature “that came immediately to support this recovery have been immensely valuable, and I think those are the funds we can really work to deploy in the nearest term — things like Puna Strong (grants), trying to understand how to unlock the use of the public dollars for private benefit … .”

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Le said that over the coming weeks, the county and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will, “fingers crossed … be closing out that process to really verify the grant commitments and obligations.”

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