The County recovery team has asked Puna residents to provide feedback on an amendment to its recovery action plan in order to receive and additional $23 million in federal funding.
Last year, in order to qualify for $83.84 million in federal disaster recovery funds, the county submitted an action plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development detailing how those funds will be used to alleviate unmet housing needs following the 2018 eruption of Kilauea volcano.
After HUD approved that action plan, the county used the bulk of those funds to support the county’s Voluntary Housing Buyout Program.
Now, an additional allocation of $23.72 million in HUD Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds is available to the county, but the county is once again required to submit an amended plan to HUD detailing the intended use of the funds.
Functionally, the additional funds shouldn’t affect how the buyout program operates, said County Recovery Officer Douglas Le.
“There will be no changes to either program,” Le said, referring to both the buyout program and the much smaller Housing Relocation Services program also funded by the $83.84 million. “Really, what this does is to help us serve more applicants.”
According to Le, HUD requires the county to use additional funding to address the unmet housing recovery needs related to the Kilauea eruption, which total an estimated $70 million, he said.
Most of the amendments to the action plan are simply adding information that was not available when the initial plan was first released, Le said.
Most notably, the amended plan details an updated funding scheme for the buyout and relocation programs, which consolidates the majority of the funds into 2021 and 2022.
The previous version of the action plan — which was released before the three-phase structure of the buyout program was announced — allocated $4 million to the buyout program this year, $16 million in 2022, $20 million in 2023 and 2024, $12 million in 2025 and $6 million in 2026.
The updated plan now allocates $60 million in 2021, $35 million in 2022 and $5.5 million in 2023.
The amended plan also now includes a more detailed breakdown of the results of a survey of lower Puna residents conducted earlier this year.
According to that breakdown, 706 of 815 respondents reported their properties were inundated by lava, and 625 were interested in the county buying out their property.
The survey breakdown also reported that respondents have received a cumulative $70 million in insurance payouts relating to the eruption, with an average insurance payout of $255,491.
As of the beginning of June, the county has received 243 applications for the buyout program, out of an estimated 300 people who lost primary residences during the eruption, which Le said was “in line” with the county’s predictions.
During the current first phase of the program, which ends July 31, only those who lost primary residences can apply. Owners of secondary residences will be able to apply during the second phase, which begins in November.
The amendment to the action plan can be found at tinyurl.com/4kyjyyzk.
Public comments on the amendment can be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to 25 Aupuni St., Room 1301, Hilo, HI 96720 until July 1.
Email Michael Brestovansky at email@example.com.