County accepts $83M for Kilauea eruption recovery projects

  • LE

  • SAKO

The Hawaii County Council accepted Wednesday $83 million in federal funds for Kilauea eruption recovery projects in lower Puna.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $83.84 million in block grant money to the county last year in order to fund several programs to help Puna residents whose properties were destroyed or isolated by the 2018 eruption.

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On Wednesday, the County Council unanimously approved a bill allowing the county to enter into a formal agreement with HUD to appropriate the money. That action had been delayed for several months in order to allow the county’s new administration time to settle in.

The majority of the funds — $78 million — will be used for a voluntary housing buyout program that will allow Puna residents impacted by the eruption to sell their property to the county for an amount based on the property’s value before the eruption, up to $230,000 each.

Another $1.6 million will go toward housing relocation services, while the remaining $4 million will cover administrative expenses.

County Finance Director Deanna Sako said Wednesday the grant is one of the largest ever accepted by the county, but added that the financial controls are in place to allow the funds to be moved efficiently.

The buyout application process is still anticipated to begin by the end of next month. County recovery officer Douglas Le said a housing survey assessing eruption-related needs in Puna has been sent to about 1,275 people, and 171 responses had been received as of Tuesday.

The deadline for that survey is March 26.

“These programs will help Puna residents displaced by the eruption secure stable housing and recover financially,” said Mayor Mitch Roth in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “In addition to these programs, the county will continue to apply recovery dollars to support initiatives that help the community recover and become more resilient.”

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The $83 million discussed Wednesday is separate from an additional $23.72 million in HUD block grant funds that were allocated to the county in January. An action plan outlining how those funds will be spent will be submitted to the HUD in July.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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