Hawaii state and county officials seeking $1B from Legislature for Maui recovery

FILE - The aftermath of a wildfire is visible in Lahaina, Hawaii, Aug. 17, 2023. Hawaii Gov. Josh Green's administration had budgeted $199 million for Maui wildfire recovery expenses but are now expecting they may need $561 million under a “worst-case” scenario, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii state and county officials have requested about $1 billion from the Legislature to help cover Maui wildfire recovery expenses in the near term.

Gov. Josh Green’s administration had budgeted $199 million for such expenses but are now expecting they may need $561 million under a “worst-case” scenario, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.


One major reason for the jump in expenses is the greater-than-expected costs for fire survivors deemed ineligible for federal assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA pays 90% of the cost to house eligible survivors in hotels, and the state pays the remaining 10%. FEMA doesn’t share costs for ineligible survivor households, of which there are 820.

People not eligible for FEMA assistance include undocumented immigrants, migrants from Compacts of Free Association states and some condominium owners.

The state has agreed to FEMA’s ineligibility determination for only 29 households and is contesting the remainder.

At $1,000 day per household, 820 households are costing the state $820,000 a day, or $24.6 million a month.

Luis Salaveria, the director of the state Department of Budget and Finance, said actual expenses may be less because the state is challenging FEMA eligibility determinations.

Senators are considering asking state agencies to cut spending by up to 15% to balance the budget as a result.

The state has a rainy day fund with a balance of about $1.5 billion. But officials are reluctant to draw on it because it helps secure a good credit rating that keeps down long-term financing costs for capital improvement projects.

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