LIHUE — Counseling, unemployment assistance and a Disaster Relief Center are all coming to Kauai, courtesy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The federal help is thanks to President Donald Trump’s approval on Tuesday of Hawaii’s request for individual assistance in flood impacted areas on Kauai and Oahu. That means they will be able to access federal funds and resources to help with recovery.
“This means support for our families,” said Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. at an Oahu press conference Wednesday. “It’s about our families now who are actually going to get some assistance.”
In May, Trump approved public assistance for damages from mid-April’s severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides with a Hawaii Emergency Management Agency estimated price tag of about $20 million.
Hawaii’s initial individual assistance request was denied by FEMA because not enough homes were reported damaged in the April floods.
So, teams took to the streets and talked with more people, discovering at least 760 homes on Kauai and Oahu were impacted, including 187 that sustained major damage or were destroyed.
Gov. David Ige re-sent the request with the updated numbers in June.
“It took a while and a lot of effort and determination and a can do attitude and shaking every tree to assure that we get the numbers that we needed and follow through on the process,” Carvalho said at the press conference. “This is a historic day.”
Ige said he thinks the individual assistance approval is a shining moment for Hawaii.
“This is one example of what continued focus and working together with county partners at Oahu and on Kauai (can accomplish),” he said. “And an important element to this was the guidance that FEMA could provide us in the things that would make a difference.”
Ige said emergency workers on Kauai and Oahu never gave up and worked tirelessly with community members to ensure that damage from the storms was documented.
“The FEMA team played a key role in the follow-up Joint Preliminary Damage Assessment, and this approval takes the agency’s response to the next level,” he said.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said the road to recovery is just beginning.
“Two months after historic flooding and landslides hit our islands, this relief could not come quickly enough as our Kauai and Windward Oahu communities are still dealing with the impact of these disasters,” she said.
Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Disaster Recovery National Dislocated Worker Grant program also released $500,000 employ workers to help with cleanup efforts on Kauai and Oahu.
The grant will employ about 200 people.
Dolph Diemont, federal coordinating officer for FEMA, said the maximum grant, if a home was totally destroyed and uninsured, is $34,000. He said inspectors are going to be asking for receipts, photos or other documents to show what a home looked like before and was done to repair it.
Sen. Brian Schatz said the communities on Kauai and Oahu are still rebuilding, and the new resources will be helpful in that effort.
“This decision also means that FEMA will open Disaster Recovery Centers on both islands so that people will have direct access to resources,” he said.
The centers are expected to open Friday.
The money coming into Kauai is the result of a cohesive collaboration of state, county and federal officials, Carvalho and Ige said at Wednesday’s press conference.
“The communities on Kauai and Oahu are still rebuilding and these new resources will be helpful in that effort,” Ige said.
Carvalho said FEMA’s Individual Assistance program will directly benefit homeowners, renters, businesses, and others “who were impacted financially and emotionally throughout these very difficult months.
“The County of Kauai is incredibly grateful to our federal partners for approving the state’s appeal which recognized the significant destruction that Kauai residents have sustained as a result of the severe flooding in April,” he said.
Jessica Else, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or at email@example.com.